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Posted on: July 16, 2019 at 8:06 pm

Pets and, to a lesser degree, Himalayan salt lamps, are two common things for people to own. Maddie Smith definitely did, and she had no idea she was endangering her beloved kitty named Ruby. Their story made their veterinarians in New Zealand issue a warning for pet owners with these common lamps [1]. The post went viral.

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Smith had no idea this would happen when she woke up one morning and found Ruby acting strangely. Unbeknownst to her, Ruby had been licking the Himalayan salt lamp, and now held her head in an odd position while she walked. Her owner assumed this behavior was due to the cold weather, and made sure the cat was warm and comfortable before heading to work.

That afternoon, Smith came home and noticed Ruby’s condition had rapidly deteriorated. She rushed her to the animal hospital where the vets were extremely worried about the cat’s health. 

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Ruby displayed clear neurological problems. She couldn’t walk properly, hear, see, or even eat or drink, because she couldn’t control her tongue. This deterioration happened in less than twelve hours. It broke Smith’s heart to see her pet suffering like this. 

“She was so helpless,” she writes later in the issued warning on Rose Avenue Vet Hospital’s Facebook page.

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The vets ran several tests, but they all came back clear. Then Ruby’s blood test returned with dangerously high sodium and chloride levels. 

Salt poisoning of this severity can cause brain swelling, which had happened to this poor kitty and caused her neurological issues. Since this case is more common with dogs, this was the vets’ first instance of this with a cat. 

Ruby’s Diagnosis: Sodium Poisoning

By then, the vets ruled out the possibility of other diseases. They asked the owner if there was a possibility that Ruby had consumed a large portion of salt.

Smith realized Ruby must have been licking the salt lamp, which the kitty had always been interested in. 

“Ruby is a small cat,” writes First Vets in a Facebook post, “therefore it wouldn’t take a large amount of salt for Ruby to ingest a level which is toxic to her.”

Just like salty snacks for humans like potato chips, pickles, and pretzels, salt is very addictive for animals once they have a taste of it. 

“So please, please keep these [salt lamps] out of reach from your fur babies,” writes Smith.

Ruby began supportive therapy to return her body’s sodium and chloride levels to normal, using intravenous fluids and potassium supplementation. They check her blood regularly and monitor the levels slowly returning to a healthy range. 

Although Ruby’s condition is stabilized, she still has a long way until a complete recovery. With proper nutrition and hydration, she should come back to herself. In the meantime, Smith pitched the salt lamp that endangered the cat in the first place.

“She is basically a miracle to still be here now,” writes Smith.

In the Facebook post, Smith thanks First Vets for healing Ruby and for helping them with every issue that arose since she adopted her eleven months ago.

She ends the message saying, “Hopefully sharing this might help educate others on just how deadly these lamps can be if the salt is ingested. I know mine is not staying in our house, that’s for sure.” [1]

First Vets Update on Ruby

Smith’s warning was posted on June 29. On July 3, First Vets, the pet hospital in New Zealand that treated Ruby, posted her story and a happy update.

“We are pleased to report that Ruby’s neurological signs resolved, and her blood sodium and chloride levels returned to normal today,” they write.

In regard to other pets, they comment:

“Not every animal will show the same interest for salt licks, salt lamps, or other items that could be potentially toxic… Ruby’s case highlights what can happen, and that for dogs and cats, sometimes the most innocuous sources of sodium chloride can cause issues if the particular animal is drawn to it.” [5]

Many comments on the post thank Maggie Smith and First Vets for the warning. As one commenter, Jane D. Luxton, states: “I got rid of my salt lamp having read something similar. My cats are too precious to risk their lives for decorations. Thank you for sharing.”

Signs of Sodium Poisoning in Pets

For owners without salt lamps, even ingesting plain table salt can be toxic, even fatal, to cats and dogs.

If you’re concerned your pet might be suffering from salt poisoning, look for these common symptoms.

Early signs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Incoordination
  • Blindness or deafness
  • Excessive thirst and/or urination

Severe cases may include:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Or even death

Potentially dangerous sources of sodium, besides for table salt and salt lamps, are:

  • Homemade play dough
  • Rock salt for de-icing
  • Paint balls
  • Sea water
  • Enema solutions, and other medicines with sodium phosphate

Be sure to keep these items out of reach from pets who may sneak them while you’re not looking, just as Ruby did her salt lamp licking behind Smith’s back.

If you suspect your pet has sodium poisoning, don’t hesitate to call your local veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline. [3] [4]

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Sarah Biren
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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