What is Carnation Poisoning?
Carnations are known to the world of science by their scientific name: Dianthus caryophyllus and belong to the Caryophyllaceae family. To the rest of the world, carnations are commonly called sweet William, wild carnations, and pinks. Carnations are identified by their bluish-grey to green colored leaves and fringed flowers that bloom in a pale to dark pink coloration. Species of the carnation can be found in Europe, Northern Africa and portions of North America. The plants usually bloom in late July to early August and seeds in September.
Carnation poisoning in cats is a mild toxicity caused by the ingestion of the stem, leaves or petals of the carnation plant. Carnations are only mildly toxic to felines causing clinical signs of gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea. Carnations, like other Dianthus species, contain triterpenoid saponins that cause dermatitis when the sap comes into contact with the skin. These saponins are also believed to cause a similar irritation to the esophagus, stomach and lower digestive system when ingested. Although no reports have been made of a feline carnation poisoning fatality, the ingestion of this plant should always be taken seriously.
Symptoms of Carnation Poisoning in Cats
Carnation poisoning in cats will cause clinical signs of mild toxicity. The most common clinical sign is gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea. The feline may get sick one or more times, depending on the quantity of plant material he or she consumed. The act of vomiting and diarrhea often causes secondary symptoms of dehydration, weakness, as well as decreased appetite. The carnation plant also has a sap that is known to cause dermatitis-like symptoms. Therefore, the cat’s lips and mouth may be reddened, swollen or irritated in appearance. The symptoms associated with carnation poisoning in cats are usually short-lived, lasting only a few short hours.
Causes of Carnation Poisoning in Cats
Carnation poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestion of the stem, leaves, petals, pollen or seeds of the carnation plant. The exact toxicity content of the carnation is unknown, but experts believe it is the steroidal saponins that all member of the Caryophyllaceae family to be the toxic component. Steroidal saponins are the glycoside of pentacyclic oleanane, known to cause a potentially serious intoxication in mammals. The saponins often cause dermatitis, an allergic reaction of the skin, when coming into contact with the plant’s sap. This same irritant is believed to be the source of gastrointestinal upset associated with ingestion of the carnation plant.
Diagnosis of Carnation Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosing carnation poisoning in cats is difficult as there is no specific test available for identifying this type of toxicity. Your veterinarian’s diagnosis will be based on ruling out other possible causes of your feline’s current condition that could cause similar symptoms that mimic a Carnation poisoning. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, review of the feline’s medical history, and a consultation with the pet owner. It will be important for you to inform the veterinarian about your feline’s recent actions and exposure to carnations, as this information will aid in ruling out other possible causes. The clinical signs that carnation poisoning causes in cat, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are the same symptoms as several other feline-related health conditions. The veterinarian will want to conduct a series of diagnostic tests to ensure your cat is truly suffering from a carnation toxicity and not a more severe underlying condition. Diagnostic tests the veterinarian will likely request to be performed on the feline include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal floatation test
- Fecal examination
Treatment of Carnation Poisoning in Cats
As carnation poisoning is only a mild poisoning to felines, there is no true treatment specifically deemed for this type of poisoning in cats. The cat’s own body does a fairly adequate job of removing the toxin from the body through vomiting and passing the digested particles through waste. However, a feline may require veterinary attention to induce vomiting and replenish fluids. An emetic drug, a drug that encourages vomiting, paired with intravenous fluids may be administered to the feline upon veterinary visitation. A medication used to coat the stomach and prevent further irritation from the carnation sap may also be given as part of the treatment regimen.
Recovery of Carnation Poisoning in Cats
Without further exposure to the carnation plant, your feline will be able to make a full recovery in a few short hours. Your veterinarian will likely ask you to encourage the feline to consume a larger amount of water than usual to further eliminate the toxin from the body for the day of toxic intake, but activities should return to normal in a few hours. Always consult the veterinarian when your feline consumed a carnation plant, as larger consumptions could result in a more serious end result.