What is American Yew Poisoning?
Every part of the yew contains taxine, but the largest amount of this toxin is found in the seeds. When ingested, taxine can immediately begin to cause excessive drooling, vomiting, dilated pupils, seizures, and loss of consciousness in your cat. The longer you wait to take our cat to a vet, the less likely it is that he will recover from this condition, so act quickly as soon as you spot any of these symptoms.
The American yew is a shrub-like evergreen plant that is native to Central and Eastern North America. Even though it is native to these areas, it can be found in homes throughout the country because many florists use it to create decorative wreaths. Unfortunately, the American yew plant can be toxic when consumed by humans, dogs, cats, and other animals. Ingesting even a small piece of the yew plant can lead to serious symptoms, and can sometimes be fatal.
Symptoms of American Yew Poisoning in Cats
American yew poisoning can eventually lead to cardiac failure, which is fatal, so it’s important to take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible after you see the early signs of this condition. Some of the symptoms you may observe include:
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Seizures or tremors
- Losing consciousness
Causes of American Yew Poisoning in Cats
American yew poisoning is caused by the exposure to the yew plant, which is an evergreen plant that may be found outdoors or used to create wreaths. All parts of the American yew contain taxine, which is poisonous. However, the highest concentration of taxine is found in the seeds.
Diagnosis of American Yew Poisoning in Cats
Once your cat begins to exhibit the symptoms of yew poisoning, it is imperative you take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have observed to your vet, and let the vet know when you first began to notice them. If your cat spends a lot of his time outside, the vet should be made aware of this so he knows the cat could have been exposed to outdoor toxins. Cats often vomit pieces of yew, so if you spot anything in your cat’s vomit, try to take in a sample for the vet.
If you are unsure of what caused the symptoms, the vet should be able to identify the presence of taxine and yew by examining the contents of the cat’s stomach. Because yew poisoning can quickly affect the heart, the vet will need to determine the severity of your cat’s condition by noting his vital signs, including respiratory rate, pulse, and blood pressure.
Treatment of American Yew Poisoning in Cats
Treatment for this dangerous condition will need to begin immediately following a diagnosis in order to save your cat’s life. Your cat may be placed on a respirator and receive IV fluids that will prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
The treatment will depend on when your cat ingested yew. If treatment begins immediately following ingestion, the vet will most likely induce vomiting to remove any pieces of yew that may remain in the stomach. Then, the vet will perform a gastric lavage, which is a way for him to wash your cat’s stomach cavity using a tube placed into the mouth and down the gastrointestinal tract. Activated charcoal may also be administered to absorb any of the remaining toxins from your cat’s system.
After treatment, the vet will probably ask to keep your cat so he can closely monitor his condition. This is important in cases of yew poisoning because of how vulnerable the heart can be to this type of poison.
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for taxine. If you wait too long to take your cat to a vet, or if the condition is not immediately diagnosed, there may not be a way to treat it.
Recovery of American Yew Poisoning in Cats
Recovery will depend on how quickly you are able to take your cat to the vet for treatment. As with most cases of poisoning, the earlier your cat begins to receive medical treatment, the more likely he is to recover.
After your cat has been released to you, keep him calm and comfortable while he regains his strength and recovers. Your vet may recommend that you ensure your cat drinks plenty of fluids so he can continue to wash out his stomach. He may also suggest altering his diet for the next few weeks as his body recovers from this traumatic episode.
Cats are more likely to be exposed to the yew plant when they are outdoors, so you may want to consider keeping your cat indoors to prevent further exposure.