Mar 27 2015

Easter Lily Poisoning in Cats

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This time of year makes all veterinarians and veterinary technicians cringe… Why? As Easter approaches, there are Easter lilies abounding everywhere. Our mission is to spread the word so all pet owners are aware that these plants are poisonous for cats!

The are benign and dangerous lilies out there, and it’s important to know the difference. Benign lilies include the Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies. These aren’t “true lilies” and don’t come from the Lilium or Hemerocallis species, so they pose less of a danger. Peace and Calla lilies contain insoluble oxalate crystals that irritate the mouth when ingested. Typically, these benign lilies only cause minor signs secondary to tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus.

Clinical signs from benign lilies include drooling, pawing at the mouth, foaming, transient vomiting, and in rare cases, difficulty breathing.

If a benign lily is ingested, simply offer your cat something “tasty” like milk or canned chicken broth. This will help flush out the crystals from the mouth, resolving the clinical signs.

The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species. Examples of some of these dangerous lilies include the following: tiger lilies, day lilies, asiatic hybrid lilies, japanese show lilies, easter lilies, rubrum lilies, stargazer lilies, red lilies, western lilies, and wood lilies. Of these dangerous lilies, keep in mind that all parts of the plant are highly toxic to cats! Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves) – even the pollen or water from the vase – can result in severe, acute kidney failure.

Clinical signs from the Lilium or Hemerocallis type include: vomiting, anorexia, drooling, hiding, lethargy, halitosis, kidney failure, excessive or decreased thirst and urination, dehydration, and a painful abdomen.

Other dangerous lilies include lily of the valley, which grows all around our area, southern Chester County. This type does not cause kidney failure, but can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when ingested by cats and dogs.

If your cat is seen consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat (and the plant) immediately to the veterinarian for medical care. When in doubt, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center for life-saving information.

Treatment includes decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activating charcoal), aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, anti-vomiting medication, kidney function monitoring tests, blood pressure monitoring, urine output monitoring, and supportive care can greatly improve the prognosis. Typically, intravenous fluids must be started within an 18 hour window for the best outcome – in other words, the sooner you bring your cat into the veterinarian before clinical signs develop, the better the prognosis! Treatment generally requires 3 days of hospitalization.

When in doubt, please keep these lilies out of your feline household. Please help spread the word to all your cat-loving friends out there!

Taken from Dr. Jusine Lee’s blog with adaptations from us. Find her on Facebook!


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