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Home > Cats > Is It Safe to Give a Cat Pepto Bismol for an Upset Stomach? Risks & FAQ

Is It Safe to Give a Cat Pepto Bismol for an Upset Stomach? Risks & FAQ

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Dr. Tabitha Henson

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If your cat is dealing with an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea, reaching into your medicine cabinet can be tempting to help them feel better. Pepto-Bismol is a well-known human remedy for a troubled tummy, but is this pink drink safe to give cats? No, Pepto-Bismol should not be given to cats unless specifically prescribed by a veterinarian.

In this article, we’ll cover why Pepto-Bismol is unsafe for cats. We’ll also discuss what to do if your cat has an upset stomach and what other signs to watch for that could indicate a more serious problem.


What Is Pepto-Bismol and How Does It Work?

Pepto-Bismol is one of the brand names for a medication called bismuth subsalicylate, which is made up of several compounds. Together, these compounds work to relieve diarrhea and upset stomachs in humans. The medication is an anti-inflammatory, antacid, and intestinal protectant.

Bismuth works by coating the intestines to guard against toxin absorption. Salicylate has anti-inflammatory properties similar to aspirin. It also helps decrease prostaglandins, hormones that can contribute to diarrhea.

Why Pepto-Bismol Is Not Safe for Cats

The salicylate component of Pepto-Bismol is a dangerous ingredient for cats because it is similar to aspirin. Cats can’t process salicylates the same way as humans or even dogs. It takes their bodies longer to eliminate the drug, potentially allowing it to build up to toxic levels.

Aspirin poisoning can cause kidney and liver damage, blood clotting problems, or ulcers in cats. Because the potential concerns with salicylate ingestion are so serious, Pepto-Bismol should never be given to cats unless a veterinarian is involved to ensure it is used safely.

a sick tabby cat
Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock


What Are the Signs of Aspirin or Salicylate Poisoning?

It can take some time for any signs to emerge if your cat is poisoned by Pepto-Bismol or similar products, depending on the amount of medication consumed. Your cat could also react differently depending on any underlying health conditions, medications they are taking, and their age.

Early signs of aspirin poisoning often are related to the digestive system, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, belly pain, or diarrhea. You may notice blood in your cat’s poop or vomit if they develop a bleeding ulcer.

More serious signs can develop if your cat continues to be exposed to aspirin or is left untreated. These include the following symptoms:

  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Fast breathing
  • Seizures
  • Wobbly gait
  • Fever

If your cat ingests Pepto-Bismol or another substance that contains salicylates, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. There is no antidote for aspirin poisoning, so the faster treatment begins, the better.

Generally, treatment consists of preventing or slowing the absorption of the aspirin into your cat’s system and providing supportive care to manage any secondary side effects like kidney damage or bleeding. Long-term health issues are possible even if your cat survives the initial poisoning.

What Should You Do if Your Cat Has an Upset Stomach?

As we’ve learned, Pepto Bismol isn’t a safe medication to use if your cat has an upset stomach. So, what should you do instead if your cat develops tummy trouble?

Fixing your cat’s upset stomach will depend somewhat on what signs you are noticing. Is your cat throwing up, having diarrhea, or refusing to eat? These are non-specific signs that can have numerous causes, from hairballs to more serious conditions like diabetes.

More than likely, diagnosing your cat’s tummy trouble will involve a trip to the veterinarian. Your vet will be able to examine your cat and prescribe safe medications if needed. If an underlying health condition is suspected, your vet may suggest blood tests or other diagnostic methods.

If your cat has an upset stomach, don’t delay in getting them treated. More serious complications can occur if your cat becomes dehydrated from excessive vomiting or diarrhea. Cats who stop eating or eat poorly can develop a life-threatening condition called hepatic lipidosis in only a few days.



As tempting as it may be to try and save some money and treat your cat’s upset stomach on your own, the dangers in doing so aren’t worth the risk. Pepto-Bismol isn’t safe for cats, and you should never give any medication to your cat without checking with your vet first. Part of responsible pet ownership includes planning ahead to cover unexpected illnesses or medical emergencies. Consider creating a pet savings account or purchasing a pet insurance policy for your cat.

Featured Image Credit:Pepto Bismol Ultra (ajay_suresh, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

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