What is Bitter Root Poisoning?
As the name suggests, bitter root plant is extremely bitter and unpalatable. This makes the risk of your cat eating a significant amount of the plant very low. However, plants can vary in toxicity and size depending on the exact specimen. The effects of bitter root poisoning can be very harmful to your cat. If you suspect your cat has ingested any type of poisonous plant you should seek immediate veterinary care.
Bitter root is one of many plants that may appear harmless but that can cause a great deal of harm if your cat were to ingest it. Simple exposure to bitter root, such as brushing up against or otherwise coming in contact with the plant, does not cause any harmful effects. It is only when the plant is eaten and digested that your cat may begin to be unwell.
Symptoms of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats
Bitter root poisoning can cause a host of harmful symptoms in your cat. The chemicals found in this plant are similar to those used in heart patients, which means that ingestion can cause circulatory and other heart issues within your cat. Signs to watch for include:
- Diarrhea (with or without blood)
- Slow heart rate
- Irregular heart rate (arrhythmia)
- Cold limbs
- Bradypnea (slow breathing)
Causes of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats
Bitter root is a common plant found in various regions of North America. It is a perennial flowering herb that contains toxic amounts of glycoside-type chemicals cymarin, cyntoxin, and strophanthidin. The plant has smooth leaves arranged opposite each other along the stems. The plant produces small, bell-shaped white, pinkish or greenish white flowers.
While the plant is common, all portions of it are very bitter and fibrous, making it difficult for cats and dogs to ingest large quantities. Poisoning is, therefore rare, but the toxins are highly dangerous and can be potentially fatal.
Diagnosis of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosis of bitter root poisoning in your cat should be done by an experienced vet. While you can administer preliminary first aid to your cat at home by flushing out their mouth, cases of poisoning will often depend on timely treatment by a veterinarian and any delay could cause additional damage.
Your vet will carefully observe the symptoms and will need a complete history of any medical conditions. If you witnessed your cat eating any plants or household substances you should bring a sample with you to the vet’s office. This will aid in diagnosing the exact cause of the poisoning in your cat.
Treatment of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats
Treatment of bitter root poisoning in your cat will begin with supportive care. Your vet will administer various prescription drugs via injection that will help stabilize your cat’s heart and breathing. Atropine is a specific drug that can be slowly administered through an IV that will help stabilize your cat’s breathing.
After your cat has been stabilized, your vet will attempt to induce vomiting. This procedure is important as it prevents your cat from ingesting an additional quantity of the poison.
Once your pet has vomited, your vet may also administer a solution of activated charcoal via an esophageal tube. Activated charcoal has absorptive properties that will help neutralize the remaining amount of toxins and then is passed through your cat’s digestive system. Your cat will need to stay at your vet’s office at least overnight and possibly longer until they have stabilized enough to return home.
Recovery of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats
Recovery from bitter root poisoning in your cat will depend on how quickly they have received appropriate veterinary care after ingesting the toxins. If immediate care is obtained and your cat is quickly stabilized, they have a good chance at making a full recovery. In cases of severe poisoning there is the potential for long term liver damage in your cat. Your cat will need follow-up tests to evaluate kidney and liver function.