Dr. Crystal Davis, SylvaniaVet
It’s that time of year again. Time for bunnies, marshmallow peeps, and coloring eggs. Most owners are aware of the hazards that live in the Easter basket for their pet, such as chocolate, sugar free candies and even the Easter grass. However there is one more dangerous concern outside of the basket that can be a serious concern for your cat’s health.
Easter lilies are beautiful flowers used this time of year to symbolize hope, peacefulness and new life. Ironically for cats, if ingested, it causes life threatening medical issues. Once ingested the toxin travels through the body to the kidneys causing cells to degenerate and die. This takes away the function of the kidney to filter out other toxins from the body, which is termed kidney failure. As these toxins build up it causes the kitty to feel very ill and can affect the brain, causing seizures, coma and death. The damage starts within a few hours of ingestion and the owner may see various symptoms as the injury progresses. The kitty may begin to vomit, act lethargic (tired), stop eating, hide, vocalize or have increased drinking or urination. Even with intervention, the kidneys can continue to be damaged and the signs can continue to progress and can become fatal within 36 to 72 hours. However, do not wait for symptoms to show before seeking veterinary care. This means that kidney damage has already begun and the goal of treatment is to wash out the toxin before too much damage (or any) is done.
This life threatening ingestion, called lily toxicosis, can be treated if caught early. Treatment usually involves inducing them to vomit up any plant material left in their stomach and admitting them to a veterinary hospital for several days of intravenous fluids. Lab tests are done repeatedly to determine the success of therapy. However, even if caught early, there can still be lasting damage done to the kidneys .
Easter lilies are part of Lilium family of flowers. Other plants in this family that can also be fatal if ingested are the tiger lily, stargazer lily, Japanese show lily, Asian lily and the day lily (family Hemerocallis). Many owners believe if they put the plants in an area the cat can’t reach, then there is no risk of them ingesting the harmful toxin. However, I do not recommend this for three reasons:
- Cats are very curious and secretive. It is always amazing how they can find ways to get into things when their owners are not looking.
- Cats are very determined, and even seem to be attracted to lilies, seeking them out if the plant seems to be in an unreachable area. Curious felines have still been known to eat the plant without the owner being any the wiser.
- All parts of the plant are poisonous, the stem leaves and petals. Even if your furry friend just chews the stem, licks pollen off of the floor or drinks the water this can cause kidney failure. However, the petals do seem to be the most damaging.
The recommendation is to avoid having any of these flowers in your home or garden. Even if your cat is only seen near the plant or especially with known ingestion, please seek veterinary care immediately. For more information please visit the website no lilies for cats or the ASPCA. The ASPCA is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They run a 24 hour toxicology hotline, where (for a minimal fee) owners can call and discuss anything concerning their pet may have ingested. However, please remember that the effects of the toxin from Easter lilies begins to affect the kidneys within a few hours, so prompt veterinary treatment is extremely important to improve prognosis.