What is Barbados Aloe Poisoning?
Barbados aloe is a common household plant used by humans for medicinal purposes. It is particularly useful for burn treatment in humans. This succulent plant commonly goes by the name aloe vera or true aloe, although various common names also apply including octopus plant, medicine plant, torch plant and candelabra plant. Although the gelatinous tissue is commonly used by humans for medicinal purposes, the latex in the aloe plant is toxic to cats and an irritant to humans and other animals. A cat who is medically treated with aloe that has not had the latex removed from it by a well-meaning pet owner, or a cat that accidentally ingests aloe by eating the plant in the house or garden can exhibit symptoms of toxicity. Toxicity in cats from aloe poisoning is usually mild to moderate, although dehydration can occur if reaction to the plant is extreme enough. If aloe poisoning is suspected in your cat, you should seek veterinary assistance.
Symptoms of Barbados Aloe Poisoning in Cats
Although aloe poisoning symptoms are usually mild to moderate, symptoms and severity will vary depending on the amount or duration of exposure to aloe. Symptoms of aloe toxicity in cats are:
- Change in urine color to red
- Abdominal cramping
- Loss of appetite
If diarrhea is severe dehydration can result.
Causes of Barbados Aloe Poisoning in Cats
Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera, true aloe) poisoning is usually the result of exposure to the white latex of the aloe plant and not the gelatinous tissue. It usually requires a significant amount of exposure to aloe to cause poisoning, however some cats will react to even small amounts if they are sensitive to it.
Aloe contains saponins which are glycosides that, when metabolized, increases mucous and water in the colon resulting in abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.
Cats are naturally curious creatures and may sample aloe plants in their environment. As humans frequently keep this plant in their home or garden for medicinal or ornamental purposes, a curious cat may chew on or ingest the plant accidentally.
Also because humans use aloe for medicinal purposes, a pet owner may inadvertently apply aloe that has not had the latex removed to their cat without being aware of the potential toxic effects.
Aloe used for medicinal purposes usually has the latex removed, as it is also an irritant to humans. However, not everyone is aware of the necessity of removing latex from aloe that is being used for therapeutic purposes.
Diagnosis of Barbados Aloe Poisoning in Cats
Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, checking vital signs and for symptoms of aloe poisoning. The veterinarian will also need a complete medical history of your cat and will ask specifically about exposure, treatment with, or possible ingestion of aloe plant. Your veterinarian may perform tests such as blood and urine tests and radiographs to rule out other conditions and determine any organ damage resulting from aloe plant toxicity.
Treatment of Barbados Aloe Poisoning in Cats
Treatment of aloe poisoning consists of supportive care and assisting with the removal of the aloe plant and its toxic substances from your pet's gastrointestinal tract.
Supportive care may be administered, such as intravenous fluids, especially if dehydration has occurred, and oxygen therapy if required to increase oxygenation to tissues and organs.
If the aloe plant was recently ingested, vomiting may be induced to expel the plant from the digestive system. Activated charcoal may be administered, which will bind with the plant toxins and allow them to pass through your cat's gastrointestinal system without being further absorbed by your cat's body.
Recovery of Barbados Aloe Poisoning in Cats
The amount of aloe ingested and how quickly treatment is provided are factors in your pet’s recovery. Usually cats will recover from aloe poisoning if they received veterinary treatment. If severe conditions such as dehydration or organ damage occurred, recovery will be complicated and of longer duration. Follow-up with your veterinarian may be required and rest provided for a cat recovering from toxicity.
Aloe products should not be used to treat cats and plants in the house or garden should be removed if your cat is apt to chew on them.