It has been a few years since I have done a newsletter on toxic plants. As the spring season approaches, I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone about the dangers of poisonous plants, both inside and outside the home. Below are a few of the more common toxic plants that can be found at this time of year.
Lilies are the biggest danger to our feline friends, especially lilies belonging to Lillium and Hemerocallis species (Stargazers, tiger lilies, Easter lilies, daylilies, etc.) Note that Lily of the Valley, Calla lily and Peace lily are not true lilies but are still mildly toxic. ALL parts of the lily are highly toxic and can cause death, including the pollen. This means that cats that rub/brush against or sniff the flowers can still be fatally poisoned when they groom off the pollen. The toxic principle is unknown, but it causes acute kidney (renal) failure. Renal failure develops within 24 – 72 hours. The only initial sign may be vomiting. Once renal failure develops, signs can include anorexia, vomiting, depression, dehydration and death. Kittens and young cats are at highest risk of exposure, as they are generally more inquisitive and agile than their older counterparts and able to get to plants that are supposedly out of reach.
Cats treated within 18 hours of exposure (before renal failure develops) generally have a good prognosis. Cats who present as already in renal failure do not survive, even with aggressive treatment. If you suspect your cat may have ingested or come in physical contact with a lily, contact us immediately, or if it is after hours, contact the emergency clinic. Do not wait! The sooner treatment is started, the better the chances for survival.
The Narcissus spp. (Narcissus, daffodils, Paper White and Jonquils) are also toxic, but generally not fatal. These flowers contain lycorine, an alkaloid with strong emetic properties (vomiting inducing). Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause severe tissue irritation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression.
Crocus plants can also be toxic if ingested. There are two types of Crocus plants: spring and autumn. Spring Crocus plants are part of the Iridaceae family. These plants can cause general gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Autumn Crocus, part of the Liliaceae family (and also called Meadow Saffron or Naked Lady), contains a toxic alkaloid called colchicine. All parts of the Autumn Crocus are poisonous. It is highly toxic and can cause drooling, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, seizures and even death. Signs may be seen immediately but can also be delayed for days.
If you see your cat chewing on a plant but are unsure if it is toxic (and know the name of the plant), there are some resources available to determine if the plant is toxic. The ASCPA has a list of poisonous and nonpoisonous plants on their website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/cats-plant-list. The ASPCA also has a 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
Now that you’re equipped with this important information, we hope that you and all of your feline friends have a safe and sunny springtime! =^_^=