Is the Easter Lily Toxic to Cats?

lilyToxic Level: High

They come to symbolize Easter and the resurrection of Christ in Christianity. Legend has it that these flowers sprung up where Jesus’ sweat fell as he prayed the night before his crucifixion. For dogs and cats, there is a different story behind these beautiful trumpet-shaped white flowers that adorn every Easter dinner table during this holiday.

 

LILY TOXICOSIS & CATS

In the days approaching Easter, the Easter Lily can be found most everywhere from churches to convenience stores. The Easter Lily as well as all plants related to the Liliaceae family (Tiger lily, Japanese show lily, Asiatic lily, stargazer lily, rubrum lily, day lily, wood lilies and hybrids) are extremely toxic and life threatening to cats. This is not to be taken lightly. The diagnosis is officially known as lily toxicosis. This is not limited to nibbling on the flowers but ingestion of any part of the plant -the leaves, the stems, the pollen, and even the water from the vase are extremely toxic and potentially fatal. How toxic? The plants naturally contain bufadienolides (a cardiac glycoside toxin), veratridine (a neurotoxin) and ranunculin (when chewed becomes the toxin protoanemonin). Ingestion of as little as 2 leaves or a small bite from a petal, if left untreated can progress to acute kidney failure or severe acute kidney injury (AKI) and death. It’s a slow and agonizing death that sickens and kills thousands of cats yearly. If you think there is a chance that your cat has gotten into lilies, take your cat immediately to your veterinarian or nearest animal hospital for treatment or contact Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

The sooner your cat is under the care of your vet or animal hospital before clinical signs develop, the better the prognosis. Symptoms include:

Vomiting
Lethargy
Hiding
Hypersalivation
Loss of Appetite
Diarrhea
Drooling
Foaming
Dehydration
Painful abdomen
Uremic halitosis
Increased decreased thirst and urination
Decreased urination (later signs)
Kidney failure
Seizures
Death

IMMEDIATE CARE

If you think or know that your cat has ingested Easter Lily, take your cat immediately to your veterinarian or nearest animal hospital for treatment or contact Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. If you are unsure of the type of Lily, bring a flower or section of the plant with you (in a sealed container) to aid the hospital in identifying the plant as well as the diagnostic process. If you are unsure of the type of Lily, bring a flower or section of the plant with you (in an enclosed container) to aid the hospital in identifying the plant as well as the diagnostic process.

 

TREATMENT

Due to the fast absorption rate of the toxin, it is imperative that treatment is initiated immediately or within 4-6 hours of exposure for the best outcome. If treatment has been delayed up to 48 hours or signs of kidney failure have begun, the prognosis for recovery is poor as any kidney damage may be permanent even for cats who receive treatment. For treatment initiated 2 or more days after exposure one can expect irreversible kidney damage, kidney failure and death. The humane treatment option at this time would be euthanasia to end suffering.

In addition to laboratory tests, treatment includes aggressive decontamination with induced vomiting to flush out and prevent further absorption of the toxin. Activated charcoal may be administered to help prevent further absorption neutralizing the toxins. Of utmost importance is the next stage of starting aggresive IV fluid therapy and supportive care program (diuresis) to prevent or treat kidney failure. If aggressive IV fluid therapy is initiated within 18 hours, the overall response to therapy is good to excellent. Treatment will require hospitalization for a few days. The amount of days is dependent on how your cat responds to treatment with kidney functions, blood chemistry and urine output to be closely monitored.

PREVENTION

The best prevention to keep your cat safe is to keep the Easter Lily plant out of your household.

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