Made from tiny silver particles suspended in liquid, colloidal silver has a reputation for health-promoting qualities from healing wounds and other skin conditions to preventing parasites and internal disease. However, no studies prove whether colloidal silver for cats is a good idea, or if it could harm them.
Understand colloidal silver
Silver contains antimicrobial properties that bind to pathogens to theoretically kill them. Ancient civilizations would use silver vessels for water and silver cutlery to help prevent bacterial illness according to a December 2019 study by the University of Arkansas on the effect of silver on E. coli. The substance is useful when used in modern-day bandages and dressings for the skin, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH).
However, no reliable scientific evidence exists that colloidal silver provides any benefit to the body when taken internally, according to the NIH. It's not an essential mineral, nor does it perform any specific function in the body.
Be aware of FDA warnings
A 1999 ruling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concludes that over-the-counter products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts aren't proven as safe and effective. The FDA restated its policy in 2019 and again in 2020 amid internet claims that colloidal silver could prevent or treat the COVID-19 virus in humans or their pets.
The FDA's position on the ineffectiveness and potential dangers include silver products that could be labeled as silver ion, silver iodide, silver proteins, silver chloride, silver cyanide, silver oxide, silver phosphate, or just "silver" (from the 2019 reference given above). Representing the products as having curative or preventive effects for any condition is contrary to its use as a dietary supplement and could put pets and people in danger by delaying the appropriate medical treatment, according to the FDA (from the 2020 reference).
First, do no harm
Administering colloidal silver to your cat could compromise its health if not used under the direct supervision of your vet. Consider the following before giving your cat colloidal silver.
Don't combine it with medicines. Using colloidal silver for cats in conjunction with an antibiotic or other medication prescribed by your vet might seem like an ideal way to speed up healing, but don't do it. According to the NIH, colloidal silver may interfere with medication absorption. That means your cat might not receive the beneficial meds he needs for his condition.
Don't make her blue. Argyria is a condition caused by silver building up in the body. It can make your cat's body tissues turn permanently blue or grayish, much like when you wear a silver ring that leaves a temporary stain on your finger. Hairless areas such as her nose, eyelids, toe pads, or gums could darken, according to the Mayo Clinic. Internal organs can also lose their healthy pink hue due to silver buildup.
Know the dangers. The Mayo Clinic notes that other health problems related to silver use could include kidney damage, seizures, and neurological problems. More silver-related health concerns for animals include enlarged heart, stunted growth, anemia, and liver problems, according to the Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals.
Consult your veterinarian
Using colloidal silver topically is the only method validated by the NIH. If your cat has a minor scrape, spraying a mist of colloidal silver directly on it or wiping it with a cotton square soaked in the liquid shouldn't do your cat harm. Colloidal silver is available online; simply do a Google search. However, amounts of silver in products aren't standardized and there's no guarantee that the products contain the amount of silver advertised.
If your cat's condition is more severe — such as a breakout, abrasion or wound — don't risk a "wait and see" attitude that could lead to infection or unnecessary discomfort for your pet. As the FDA doesn't regulate colloidal silver, there are no standardized formulations that guarantee you're getting what the company claims. Some brands tested by the FDA contained as little as 0.01 percent silver, and others included 15 to 124 percent of the amount claimed on the label.
- University of Arkansas: Quantitative Study of the Antimicrobial Effects of Silver on the Motility of Escherichia coli
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Colloidal Silver
- Federal Register / Vol. 64, No. 158: Tuesday, August 17, 1999 / Rules and Regulations
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: CFR — Code of Federal Regulations Title 21
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Coronavirus Update — FDA and FTC Warn Seven Companies Selling Fraudulent Products that Claim to Treat or Prevent COVID-19
- The Mayo Clinic: Colloidal Silver, Is It Safe?
- Science Direct: Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals (Fourth Edition), Chapter 53 — Silver
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Rulemaking History for OTC Colloidal Silver Drug Products