Can I Give My Kitten Pepto-Bismol?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses why formulations for humans are not suitable for cats.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: July 31, 2009, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: Can I give my 6-month-old kitten Pepto-Bismol for throwing up and diarrhea?  Is it a safe product for cats?

A: Bismuth subsalicylate (the chief ingredient in Pepto-Bismol) is related to aspirin. Cats are very sensitive to salicylate formulations. They cannot metabolize and excrete them efficiently. I do not recommend Pepto-Bismol for gastrointestinal problems.

I’d steer clear of Kaopectate, too. Kaolin-pectin combinations have been used for decades to treat diarrhea in humans and small animals. The old formulation contained only kaolin and pectin. Later formulations contained an additional ingredient, attapulgite. All three of these substances were very safe in animals because they were not absorbed into the bloodstream after administration; they exerted their effects locally, in the intestine. 

In December 2002, however, Kaopectate was reformulated to contain the drug bismuth subsalicylate, the chief ingredient in Pepto-Bismol. A tablespoon of regular- strength Kaopectate contains the equivalent of 130 milligrams of aspirin; the extra-strength formulation has the equivalent of 230 milligrams.  One tablespoon of the extra-strength formula would probably cause toxicosis in a 5-pound cat. 

For this reason, Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol are not recommended for feline gastrointestinal problems. Take your kitten to a good veterinarian who will figure out the cause of the vomiting and diarrhea. The focus is on treating the cause, so the problem goes away, rather than just controlling the symptoms. 


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Reader Comments

CatChannelEditor    Irvine, CA

6/11/2012 8:25:24 AM

These are good comments, and merit a follow up by our cat vet expert. I will send them along to him and see if he can answer your questions.

Bdth Vokoun    Grand Junction, CO

6/10/2012 9:11:23 PM

I am disappointed that there was no resolution, except not to give Pepto. The vet costs 42.oo a visit. I think my cat has diarrhea because my Maine Coon has developed constipation. Change of food. My vet recommended W/D for the constipated cat, which did no good without the lactulose etc. My diarrhea cat has eaten the so called "fiber" food and got diarrhea. Now everyone tells me that W/D is full of corn, no protein etc. I do not know who to believe, and I am now concerned about my vet whom I spent 700.oo for hydration, enemas and overnite stays before he was put on the meds. I suspect they put him on W/D for their own gain. But I don't know. I have 4 cats and a dog, and feel like I can't trust vets at all. Nor can I the retailers that push certain foods. I also read that Purina was the lowest rated food, compared to Halo, Blue Buffalo and numerous others.
Is there an answer?

Kelly    Henderson, NV

9/23/2011 12:30:52 AM

Why would my vet told me to give my 3 month old kitten pepto-bismol to help with his loose stools if it was harmful? It's a very small amount he told me to give my cat, but, after reading this(and other info on the net) I am really scared for my kitten.

Abby    Miami, FL

7/10/2011 4:34:50 PM

My local veterinarian perscribed me Kaopectate for my 2 8-month old kittens. Why would she perscribe Kaopectate if it isn't safe for my kittens?

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