What is Borage Poisoning?
The toxic properties of the borage plant include tannins and mucilage. Tannins are substances which are present in many plant tissues, and are commonly found in many foodstuffs, including wine, coffee, and tea. Mucilage is a type of gel-like sugar produced in the roots and seeds of plants. This substance is commonly used in adhesive products. Both of these substances are toxic to cats, and can cause damage in the liver and kidneys.
The borage plant, also known as the starflower, is an herb that is incredibly toxic to cats. The plant may also cause mild skin irritation in humans. The borage plant belongs to the Boraginaceae family and is often used as a medicinal remedy for humans. The plant, though native to Syria, is relatively common and found growing in ordinary soil. Recognize the borage plant by its prickly white hairs, long stem, and varied leaf shapes. The pointy blue flowers have a star-like appearance, and are the source of the plant’s nickname.
Symptoms of Borage Poisoning in Cats
While it is unclear whether borage poisoning is life-threatening for cats, you should treat any type of poisoning as a veterinary emergency. Seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive itching
- Signs of depression
- Loss of appetite
Causes of Borage Poisoning in Cats
The main cause of borage poisoning in cats is ingestion of the plant. This includes the stem, leaves, seeds, flowers, and buds. Unfortunately, little is known about the specifics of borage poisoning in cats. There is not very much information on how much of the plant a cat needs to ingest to become poisoned, how quickly symptoms set in, or specific treatment methods for borage poisoning. Err on the side of caution if you think your cat has ingested any part of a borage plant, and take it to the vet immediately.
Diagnosis of Borage Poisoning in Cats
It may be a good idea to call ahead and inform your vet that you will be bringing your cat in for emergency treatment. If you purchased the borage plant as a house plant, bring it with you to the vet. If you can, give your vet an estimate of how much of the plant your cat ingested. You should always tell your vet how long your cat has been exhibiting symptoms.
Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination and assess your cat’s symptoms. This examination is generally sufficient to make the definitive diagnosis. Additional diagnostic testing, including urinalysis, blood analysis and x-rays, may be utilized to make the definitive diagnosis, or if liver or kidney damage is suspected.
Treatment of Borage Poisoning in Cats
Treatment may vary depending on the severity of the poisoning as well as how much of the borage plant your cat ingested. Your vet will be able to advise you on a treatment plan based on your cat’s needs.
Intravenous fluid therapy is generally the treatment of choice, especially for animals experiencing dehydration from vomiting. Inducing vomiting will not help treat the condition as vomiting is usually already present. Anti-vomiting medication may also be prescribed in addition to nutritional therapy. Topical treatments may be applied to the skin if skin irritation has occurred as a result of the poisoning.
In cases of more severe poisoning, your vet may recommend that your cat be hospitalized for up to 48 hours in order to monitor their condition. In the event that kidney or liver damage has occurred, more invasive treatment methods or surgery may be required in order to secure the best prognosis.
Recovery of Borage Poisoning in Cats
Recovery and prognosis may vary depending on the severity of the poisoning and the amount of the plant your cat ingested. However, recovery and prognosis are generally good as long as the poisoning is diagnosed and treated early. If your cat has had surgery and/or been hospitalized, provide them with a warm, secure place to rest once you return home. Never allow your cat to irritate the surgery site, and check the surgery site daily to ensure no swelling or drainage has occurred.
If your cat came into contact with this plant through outdoor activity, you may want to reduce their outdoor activity to avoid future poisoning. If you purchased the borage as a house plant, you should remove it immediately. Always research plants that are toxic to cats before purchasing any plants for your home. Always avoid purchasing plants containing tannins and mucilage.
Your vet will not generally schedule follow-up appointments for mild cases of borage poisoning. If liver or kidney damage has occurred, your vet will schedule follow-up appointments as needed to assess your cat’s healing progress and overall health.