What is Australian Ivy Palm Poisoning?
Your cat may feel highly curious about your Australian ivy palm. The trouble is, this plant is poisonous to small animals, including cats. The Australian ivy palm contains insoluble oxalates, terpenoids and saponins. These are potentially toxic to cats and other animals, so it’s important that you teach your cat to stay away from this tree or remove it from your property if possible. In some rare cases, cats who have come into contact with this tree may develop leucopenia (low white blood cell count) and ataxia, which is the loss of full control of body movements.
Symptoms of Australian Ivy Palm Poisoning in Cats
While the Australian ivy palm does have some toxic substances, most cats who do ingest this tree become only mildly ill:
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive drooling
- Intense burning of the lips, mouth and tongue
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mild diarrhea
Some cats may lose full control of their bodily movements. They may also have a low white blood cell count, which makes it easy for them to develop infections.
Causes of Australian Ivy Palm Poisoning in Cats
Cats with specific living conditions are more vulnerable to ingesting the leaves of the Australian ivy palm, also called schefflera:
- Allowed to roam freely inside the home
- Able to go outside at will
- Lack of grasses safe for cats to eat
- Boredom and lack of mental stimulation
- Cats’ natural curiosity leads them to take an experimental nibble
If you notice your cat trying to take a nibble from an indoor plant or flower, this should tip you off that it may do so with other, possibly more dangerous plants.
Diagnosis of Australian Ivy Palm Poisoning in Cats
When you realize your cat is ill, take it to the vet immediately. You may not know what is making your cat sick, but if you saw it eating the leaves of your Australian pvy palm, take some of the twigs and leaves in a plastic bag for testing with you.
Your cat may vomit and develop mild diarrhea. Providing samples of these may help your vet run tests and identify exactly what is making your cat ill. Along with this testing, your vet will fully examine your cat, making note of its symptoms.
While it is a rare occurrence, your cat may develop ataxia or leucopenia. If this happens and the toxin can be identified, the vet will be able to administer the most appropriate medications for your cat.
Treatment of Australian Ivy Palm Poisoning in Cats
Because your cat may have mild diarrhea and vomiting, your vet will want to treat these symptoms to ensure that it doesn’t become dehydrated. If your cat ate a large amount of the leaves of an Australian ivy palm it is at risk of developing a reactive swelling inside its mouth and airway. The vet can give your cat a small dose of diphenhydramine or Benadryl to help prevent or reverse any swelling your cat may be experiencing. This medication may be given intramuscularly or by mouth.
Kapectolin can help to relieve the stomach upset. This medication coats your cat’s stomach, helping to relieve the irritation. Additionally, sucralfate may be used, which reacts with the stomach acids to form a paste that prevents any remaining plant leaves in your cat’s stomach from making direct contact.
Supportive IV fluid therapy may also be necessary to rehydrate your cat and help it to regain its strength after being sick. If your cat’s airway does become obstructed, your vet will want to keep the cat in their office for continuous observation and treatment until it is breathing more normally.
Recovery of Australian Ivy Palm Poisoning in Cats
Even though Australian ivy palm contains toxic substances, cats who eat it are more likely to develop gastrointestinal upset than anything else. A few animals have developed other symptoms but, with treatment, they did recover.
Fortunately, because of the bad taste of the leaves, cats aren’t likely to eat very much of it. The toxins are also extremely irritating to your cat’s mouth, which forces it to stop eating before it has consumed much of the tree.
In the event that a cat does manage to eat large amounts of this plant, it may experience cardiac problems, dilated pupils and go into a coma. If it doesn’t receive immediate treatment, poisoning may be fatal.
Once you have brought your cat back home from the vet, remove your Australian ivy pine from its environment and look for any other plants or flowers in and outside your house that could be poisonous to your cat. Replace these plants with grasses that your cat can safely eat.