What is Chamomile Poisoning?
A member of the Asteraceae family, the chamomile plant is known throughout the world by its scientific name: Anthemis nobilis. To many, this sweet smelling flower is known as the Roman chamomile and produces an herbal product known as chamomile. Sharing the same family tree as the sunflower, the chamomile produces a yellow disk flower surrounded by 12 to 20 silver-white pedals. The plant can grow up to 8 to12 inches tall with a fibrous root that grows near the surface of the soil.
Chamomile is generally not harmful in small doses, but can cause severe effects to felines if large amounts are ingested or if the plant is consumed over a long period of time. Chamomile contains a variety of potentially harmful substances, including tannic acid, anthemic acid, chamazulene, bisabolol, and volatile oil. These toxic substances cause felines to develop clinical signs of an allergic reaction, anorexia, diarrhea vomiting, contact dermatitis (an allergy of the skin when coming into contact with an irritating substance) and/or bleeding tendencies if consumed over a long period of time.
Symptoms of Chamomile Poisoning in Cats
Chamomile poisoning in cats causes clinical signs that include
- Contact dermatitis
In most incidences, felines develop an allergic reaction to the plant’s toxic components, however, long term use of chamomile can cause the feline to develop bleeding tendencies.
Causes of Chamomile Poisoning in Cats
Chamomile poisoning in cats can be caused by the ingestion of all portions of the chamomile plant including the stem, leaves, petals, roots, and pollen. The toxic components of the chamomile plant are terpenoids including chamazulene and bisabolol, flavonoids including apigenin, luteolin, as well as quercetin. The chamomile plant also contains coumarin scopoletin-7-glucoside and other constituents of angelic, tiglic acid esters, anthemic acid, choline, phenolic and fatty acids.
Diagnosis of Chamomile Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosing chamomile plant 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. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, review of the feline’s medical history and a consultation with the pet owner. It is important to inform the veterinarian about your feline’s recent actions and exposure to the chamomile plant or herb, as this information will aid in ruling out other possible causes. The clinical signs that chamomile plant poisoning causes in cat, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are the same symptoms as several other feline health conditions.
The veterinarian will want to conduct a series of diagnostic tests to ensure your cat is truly suffering from chamomile plant toxicity and not a more severe underlying condition. Diagnostic tests the veterinarian will likely request include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal floatation test
- Fecal examination
Treatment of Chamomile Poisoning in Cats
Chamomile poisoning in cats is treated by removing the plant from the feline to prevent further ingestion and eliminating the toxins from the cat’s body. As oral irritation is common, the cat’s mouth will be flushed out with distilled water and an emetic drug will be administered to encourage the feline to vomit.
If your cat has not vomited, the universal antidote for plant toxicity known as activated charcoal will likely be administered by the veterinarian. Activated charcoal will bind with the toxic agent and prevent the body from further absorption of the plant chemicals.
If the stomach has undergone irritation from consuming the chamomile plant, the veterinarian may administer Kapectolin, a product that provides a thick coating to the stomach wall. To reduce the stomach acid inside the stomach and prevent high acidity from corroding the stomach’s mucosal layer, the veterinarian may administer sucralfate. Sucralfate works with the stomach acid to form a paste-like coating, acting as a barrier between the stomach contents and the stomach’s soft tissues. The feline’s treatment may end with intravenous fluids to restore his or her hydration, as vomiting and diarrhea will cause the cat’s fluid levels to drop significantly.
Recovery of Chamomile Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis for chamomile poisoning in cats is generally good to excellent. Most cats will begin to show signs of improvement within an hour of treatment and make a full recovery after 24 hours. As with all plant toxicity cases, the earlier the feline is admitted to the veterinary hospital, the greater chance he or she has of making a full recovery.