Lily Toxicity in Cats
Spring is a wonderful time of year, and many of us celebrate Easter and the changing of the seasons by bringing home bouquets of flowers. However, not many people are aware of the hazard this may pose to our household pets.
Many species of lilies are extremely toxic to cats, and can cause fatal kidney failure if ingested. Lilium and Hemerocallis species are considered the most dangerous and include common spring plants like the Easter lilies, day lilies, Tiger lilies and Stargazer lilies. ALL parts of the plant, including leaves, stem, pollen, stamen and petals are toxic, and even a small ingestion (eg. a small part of a petal) can be fatal. Unfortunately, it can get confusing as some plants with “lily” in the name (eg. Peace lily, calla lilies) are not necessarily toxic to the kidney but can still cause stomach upset in cats if ingested. If you are unsure whether a flower or plant is toxic to your cat, a good resource is the ASPCA poison control website.
If you are not sure, don’t bring it home!
The toxic element in lilies is currently unknown, although it seems to be rapidly absorbed after ingestion. Cats may develop vomiting, decreased appetite, salivation and depression within a few hours of ingestion. Severe kidney failure can develop within 1-4 days of exposure. Bloodwork is needed to diagnose kidney injury. Remember, cats are very good at hiding illness, and will often not “act” sick until they are critically ill.
Treatment of lily toxicity includes attempts to induce vomiting (emptying the stomach of remaining plant material), administration of medications to adsorb any remaining toxin in the stomach, as well as intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration and help prevent the kidneys from shutting down If you suspect lily ingestion in your cat, even if he/she is not sick, bring it immediately to your family veterinarian or to an emergency clinic. A recent study demonstrated that 87% of cats that are treated by a veterinarian before onset of kidney failure survived and did not have any kidney damage. If a cat is not treated until AFTER kidney failure has developed, kidney failure may be permanent or fatal despite intensive care treatment.
Ultimately, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our recommendation is that anyone owning a cat should never bring lilies into their home. Lily toxicity also occurs with outdoor lilies, and exposure may happen in cats that are allowed outside. Cats are wonderful, curious creatures that have a knack for getting into trouble.
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