Camphor poisoning in pets: the trouble with topical pain or arthritis rubs.

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Have you ever had a sore spot on an arm or leg and rubbed a patch of Tiger Balm, only to have your pet get affectionate and lick you? Or maybe they lick your hand to get your attention before you've had time to wash your hands? This could be a serious issue, resulting in an immediate call to the Pet Poison Helpline.

Camphor is commonly found in topical pain or arthritis body rubs. Examples of some common trade names containing camphor include Carmex, Tiger Balm, Vicks VapoRub, Campho-Phenique, etc. Camphor is readily absorbed across the skin, and should never be applied to dogs or cats due to risks for poisoning. Clinical signs of camphor poisoning in pets include local skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures (in large amounts), and even rarely, death (from respiratory depression or seizures).

Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs

Level of toxicity: Generally mild to moderate

Common signs to watch for:

  • Local skin irritation

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Depression

  • Seizures (in large amounts)

  • Death (rarely, from respiratory depression or seizures)

Alternate names: topical, Carmex, Tiger Balm, Vicks, VapoRub, Campho-Phenique, Arthritis Rub

If you think your dog or cat were exposed to camphor, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately for treatment advice.


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Related: We have more information under our cat health + dog health category.