Glow Stick Poisoning in Cats

Key takeaways

Glow stick toxicity is caused when cats ingest the glowing liquid inside of glow sticks or jewelry.

  • The liquid is bitter, mildly toxic and causes symptoms like red itchy skin, severe drooling, gagging, retching, and/or vomiting
  • The distress can also cause behavioral changes in pets including running and hiding
  • Treatment can be done immediately and without veterinarian assistance by cleaning off the liquid and flushing the eyes and mouth, if safe to do so
  • Symptoms should clear up within a few hours
  • Veterinarian advice is recommended if large amounts of the liquid gets into the eyes or a large amount of plastic is swallowed in comparison to the size of the cat
  • Glow sticks should be kept in safe storage and not attached to or put on pet to prevent ingestion
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A closer look: Glow Stick Poisoning in Cats

Pet owners should not be too concerned if their cat is exposed to or ingests a small amount of glow stick fluid. Exposure symptoms may look extreme as the body attempts to remove the liquid. Once the liquid is removed symptoms should dissipate quickly.

If large amounts of the liquid get into the eyes and the animal still has some symptoms of irritation a day later, veterinarian assistance is advised.

Ingesting large amounts of plastic has the potential to cause gastroenteritis or a GI obstruction, especially in smaller animals, and requires veterinary intervention.

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Risk factors

Behavior changes often accompany the physical symptoms and vary depending on the pet. Pets may act fearful, hide, or run frantically.

Cats are likely to get into glow sticks as they can get to more difficult locations in a home (high counters). A cat’s curiosity and personality can also determine the likelihood of them playing with these toys. The more curious and persistent the cat, the greater the risk of ingestion.

Due to their grooming, cats are also more likely to keep ingesting glow stick fluid on their fur. In an attempt to clean off the fluid they ingest larger amounts which can cause more dramatic symptoms.

Possible causes

Glow sticks contain a clear to yellow, non-toxic, oily liquid known as dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Puncturing a glow stick causes the liquid to come out and contact with it is sometimes irritating.

Main symptoms

While glow stick ingestion is often asymptomatic, some symptoms can occur.

Testing and diagnosis

While veterinary attention is not often required in the case of glow stick ingestion, if veterinary attention is sought, diagnostics can include a physical and eye examination.

More aggressive diagnostics and treatment are not typically necessary. If a cat develops longer-lasting or additional symptoms blood work and diagnostic imaging may be required.

Steps to Recovery

Veterinary attention is usually not required in cases of glow stick liquid ingestion. Measures a pet parent can take include:

  • Removal of the liquid
  • Flushing the mouth, eyes, or nose
  • Tasty food/treat to remove bad taste but avoid oil-based foods

Wiping off with a damp rag should suffice. If the liquid comes in contact with the eyes, nose and/or mouth, flushing them with clean water is recommended if safe to do so.

Symptoms clear up in minutes to hours once the liquid is removed.

If the area of contact continues to show signs of irritation for more than a day a trip to the vet is warranted, especially for the eyes.


Glow stick ingestion is not contagious. Only pets that come in contact with the liquid develop symptoms.

The best method of prevention is to store glow sticks in areas out of reach of pets and to ensure they are properly disposed of when used. While some pet parents attach glow sticks to collars, it is recommended to use LED lights as a safer alternative.

Is Glow Stick Poisoning in Cats common?

Glow stick ingestion is uncommon in cats.

Typical Treatment

  • Decontamination
  • Flushing face, skin, and mouth with water


No Author - Writing for PetMD
Tina Wismer - Writing for VetStreet

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