Recently a brand of commercially available cat treats from Blue Buffalo found to contain low levels of propylene glycol was recalled by the manufacturer.
“Propylene glycol is one of the least toxic glycols. It is a synthetic liquid substance that absorbs water and is used by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries for a wide variety of reasons.
Like ethylene glycol, propylene glycol may be used as an antifreeze and can be found in high concentrations in RV and ‘pet safe’ antifreezes.
Since it has a wider margin of safety as compared to its chemical cousin, ethylene glycol, it is commonly used to absorb extra water and maintain moisture in certain medicines, cosmetics, or dog and human food products and is categorized by the FDA as a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) substance for this use.
It is also used as a solvent for food colors, flavors and pharmaceuticals (i.e. injectable diazepam). Cats are particularly sensitive to PG and its use is not allowed in cat foods.
Historically, some semi-moist cat foods contained up to 5 to 10% PG and cats were harmed by this (Heinz body formation).
If cats or dogs ingest large amounts of propylene glycol, poisoning can occur. This is most commonly seen when pets ingest liquid propylene glycol products.”
I’ve mentioned propylene glycol in several articles as being one of the ingredients to avoid in your dog’s or cat’s commercial pet food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned its use in cat food.
Unfortunately, it is still found in many processed dog foods, and is high on the ingredient list in some products, including all formulations of Nestlé Purina’s popular Beneful brand.
Why Propylene Glycol Is so Dangerous for Cats
Cats, with their unique physiology, are extremely sensitive to many substances other animals are not. In the case of propylene glycol, just a small amount can cause Heinz body hemolytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed.
Symptoms of the condition include:
Discolored urine (reddish-brown)
Pale mucus membranes
Loss of appetite
Heinz body hemolytic anemia can also be caused by ingestion of other substances toxic to cats, including onions, garlic, kale, turnips, zinc, acetaminophen, vitamin K, and benzocaine.
The condition can also be the result of an inherited disorder, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism.
Treatment of Heinz body hemolytic anemia involves addressing the underlying cause. If a kitty has very serious anemia, she will need to be hospitalized to receive life-saving care.