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The Barbados lily contains alkaloids including lycorine which is used in a controlled environment for medicinal purposes but is toxic, especially to cats, and can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms and cardiac symptoms. The most poisonous part of the plant is the bulbs. Cats are especially prone to toxicity from plants because they do not have some of the liver enzymes available to break down toxins that are found in other animals. This may be because cats are meat eaters that have not developed the liver enzymes required to break down plant compounds. If your cat has had access to a Barbados lilies or their bulbs and develops symptoms of poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Barbados lily, scientific name, Hippeastrum puniceum, also goes by the common names amaryllis lily, fire lily, lily of the palace, Easter lily and cocoa lily. It is a bulbous perennial native to Mexico, Central America, and South America, but is commonly grown for its ornamental and medicinal value in other locations. Barbados lily produces trumpet-like flowers that are usually red or orange but can be a variety of colors, including pink and white. They require a tropical or subtropical environment if cultivated in the garden, but may be kept as a house plant in cooler regions.
Because Barbados Lily is used as a medication for treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, its primary effect is on this system. However, in severe cases, symptoms can involve cardiac and other vital functions.
Cardiac and Other Vital System Symptoms
Ingestion of Barbados lily plants, or their bulbs, can cause toxicity in cats. The bulbs are particularly poisonous and contain harmful alkaloids including lycorine, a phenanthridine alkaloid that causes gastrointestinal disorder.
Cats are naturally curious creatures and may sample 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.
If you suspect Barbados lily plant poisoning, seek veterinary help immediately. As with all poisoning cases, early medical intervention will result in the best outcome. If possible, take a cutting of the plant you suspect your cat of ingesting to your veterinarian to assist them with identification and diagnosis. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, checking for vital signs and symptoms of poisoning. A complete medical history of your cat will be taken and specific exposure to toxic plants such as Barbados Lily determined. 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 plant toxicity.
Your veterinarian will start supportive care for poisoning immediately, which will include intravenous therapy for dehydration, oxygen therapy to address respiratory symptoms, appropriate cardiac medication, or medication to address deficits in other organ system functioning.
If the plant was recently ingested, vomiting may be induced to expel the plant from the digestive system or activated charcoal administered, which will bind with the plant toxins and allow them to pass through your cat's gastrointestinal system without being further absorbed in your cat's GI tract.
The amount of toxic plant ingested and the time between ingestion and treatment are both factors in recovery from Barbados lily poisoning. Your cat will require rest and possibly a special diet and medication to address any organ system damage that may have occurred. Follow up with your veterinarian to ensure complete recovery.
Ensure that Barbados lilies and any other toxic plant are kept out of access of a cat that is apt to chew on plants by removing these plants from your house or garden. As Barbados lily may be part or floral arrangements, remember to keep floral arrangements that may contain this or other toxic plants out of reach of your pet, locked in a room they cannot access.
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