What is Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning?
The plant contains an essential oil throughout all of its parts that a cat's digestive system is unable to process. This is because cats do not produce much if any of the enzyme protein UGT1A6, which is responsible for breaking down toxins in the liver. As cats are mainly carnivorous, they do not need many of the enzymes required for digesting vegetation. Because of this, the toxins from the bread and butter plant accumulate too quickly for the cat's body to break them down, resulting in an adverse gastrointestinal response.
The bread and butter plant is known by a great variety of names including Spanish thyme, Indian borage, maratha, militini, East Indian thyme or simply, coleus. Scientifically, it is classified as Coleus amboinicus. It is a green, leafy plant that is highly aromatic. This plant is often used for its many medicinal benefits in humans, but it is quite toxic to cats. The bread and butter plant is easy to grow, although it can not survive the frost and is often brought indoors over winter.
Symptoms of Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning in Cats
Ingestion of the bread and butter plant may cause moderate to severe digestive problems within your cat. If you suspect your cat has eaten a toxic plant, call your veterinarian or local animal hospital immediately to receive instructions on the appropriate actions to take. Signs to watch for include:
- Vomiting (which may contain blood)
- Diarrhea (with or without blood)
- Odd behavior
- Loss of appetite
Causes of Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning in Cats
Any part of the plant, including the roots, stems, flowers or leaves, can be toxic if ingested by a cat. Kittens or cats with very curious personalities may be more at risk for bread and butter plant poisoning than cats with a pickier nature. Because of its medicinal properties to humans, this plant may be kept in many herb gardens or grown in pots in the home. Both indoor and outdoor cats may be exposed to the plant, although not all will attempt to eat it.
Diagnosis of Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning in Cats
If you believe your cat may have eaten any part of the bread and butter plant, bring it to the nearest veterinary clinic or animal hospital to be treated immediately. If you witnessed the cat ingesting a plant but are unsure of what it was and your cat has now begun to manifest gastrointestinal symptoms, bring a small cutting of the plant with you to be identified. It is very difficult to make a specific diagnosis of plant poisoning if the eating of the plant was not witnessed. Most treatments for poisoning caused by plant ingestion are similar in nature, so the exact plant is generally not needed to begin care.
Your vet may ask you for the full medical history of your cat to help differentiate plant poisoning from other potential causes of digestive problems. Full blood work will be run including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to assess the overall health of the cat. Urinalysis may also be performed to monitor how the internal organs are functioning.
Treatment of Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning in Cats
The earlier that you bring your cat in for treatment after ingesting portions of a bread and butter plant, the better. As time goes by, more of the plant matter will be digested and more toxins will accumulate in the cat's liver.
Remove Stomach Contents
A veterinarian will either choose to induce the cat to vomit by giving it a substance like hydrogen peroxide or ipecac, or the cat's stomach will be pumped via gastric lavage. All remaining bits of plant should be removed from the oral cavity also.
This may include intravenous fluid administration to help flush the toxins out of the system and hydrate the body after a lengthened period of vomiting or diarrhea. Oxygen supplementation may also be given if necessary to stabilize the animal.
This may be given to the cat orally to bind the remaining toxins together so that they may pass through the intestines without being digested.
Recovery of Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis for your cat will very much depend on how much of the plant was ingested and how much time passed before the cat received treatment. Poisoning can be lethal in severe cases. If your cat recovers from the initial onset of symptoms, it is likely that no further health issues will exist related to the incident.
If you have cats, it may be best to keep the bread and butter plant out of your home and garden. If you need to grow it for medicinal purposes, be sure to keep your cat indoors to prevent exposure to the plant. This may be the best option in general, as it also protects your cat from the gardens of your neighbors, which also may contain toxic shrubs or flowers.