Alpha lipoic acid is a natural antioxidant that can be found in various human supplements used for weight loss, diabetes, arthritis, cataracts and glaucoma. These are common conditions, many people may have no idea the supplement they’re using could be deadly to their pet.
Alpha lipoic acid, sometimes abbreviated ALA, should not be confused with alpha linoleic acid which is a harmless omega fatty acid.
Cats are ten times more sensitive to alpha lipoic acid toxicity than dogs. Low doses of this supplement could be used therapeutically in pets but great care must be taken to avoid overdosing. In cats a dose of 25 mg daily must not be exceeded. Human supplements can contain as much as 600 mg of alpha lipoic acid per tablet!
Alpha lipoic acid damages the liver and kidneys at toxic levels. Signs of toxicity include drooling, vomiting, ataxia, tremors and seizures. On a blood panel these patients have low glucose, high liver values, imbalances in electrolytes and increased kidney values.
Treatment involves inducing vomiting if the Alpha lipoic acid was ingested within one hour. This is followed by administration of activated charcoal to help absorb toxin into the colon for passage in the feces. Hospitalization with IV fluids, IV dextrose to manage hypoglycemia and liver protectants are also used to try to save these animals. Recovery is possible if caught early.
Written by Dr. Dana Cini, DVM