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What is Cherry Poisoning?

Cherry plants are a part of the Rosaceae family and are found in the genus Prunus. Common names of the cherry tree or shrub include the cherry laurel, black cherry, choke cherry, prunus, wild cherry, ground cherry and domestic cherry. Cherry plants are common in North America, as well as several other geographic regions.

Cherry poisoning in cats is caused by consuming any portion of the cherry tree or shrub that is not the ripe pulp that we consume as a food product. All other parts of the cherry plant are considered toxic including the seeds, blossoms, stems, leaves and cherry pits. Cherry poisoning will cause symptoms of bright red gums, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils and shock that can lead to eventual death. 

Cherry Poisoning Average Cost

From 296 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$850

Symptoms of Cherry Poisoning in Cats

Cherry poisoning generally causes a mild to moderate level of toxicity in cats, however, a feline that has consumed a large amount of cherry plant material will develop severe clinical signs. Symptoms are listed below: 

  • Bright red mucous membranes 
  • Inadequate oxygen levels 
  • Difficult breathing 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shock
  • Death 
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Causes of Cherry Poisoning in Cats

All parts of the cherry plant other than the ripe fruit are considered toxic to cats, including the seeds, blossoms, stems, leaves and pits. 

The toxic component of the cherry plant is cyanide. Cyanide inhibits cytochrome oxidase, which is an important enzyme needed for cellular oxygen transport. Therefore, the cat’s cells cannot pick up oxygen to carry throughout the body and the various bodily organs will have deficient oxygen support. 

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Diagnosis of Cherry Poisoning in Cats

The best way to diagnose cherry poisoning in cats is to witness the feline consuming the plant. If you do witness your cat licking, chewing or eating any part of the cherry tree that is not the cherry itself, take part of the plant with you to your cat’s veterinary appointment. If you have not witnessed plant consumption, the veterinarian will base his or her diagnosis on your cat’s presenting clinical signs. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, a review of the feline’s medical history, and a consultation with the pet owner. 

Unfortunately, cherry poisoning symptoms mimic the symptoms of other cyanide poisoning and nitrate poisonings, so your veterinarian will need to conduct a diagnostic differential. The easiest way for a veterinarian to rule out a nitrate poisoning is to take a sample of your cat’s blood and examine its color. When a feline is suffering a cyanide toxicity, the blood will be a bright red color, whereas a nitrite toxicity will cause the feline’s blood to turn a dark brown color. The veterinarian will also check your cat’s oxygen levels, as a decreased oxygen supply is a common sign of cherry poisoning in cats. 

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Treatment of Cherry Poisoning in Cats

As cherry poisoning prevents the uptake of oxygen to the cells, the veterinarian may begin treatment with oxygen supplementation. Fluid therapy may also begin to flush the cyanide from the body and methylene blue may be administered intravenously as well. Methylene blue works by reducing the ferric iron in hemoglobin (red blood cells) to the ferrous state. Therefore, this therapeutic agent converts methemoglobin cells that don’t carry oxygen into hemoglobin cells that will once again be receptive to oxygen transport. The veterinarian may pair the use of methylene blue with mineral oil. Used as a cathartic, mineral oil can aid in a faster defecation and speed up the removal of toxic material from the feline’s gastrointestinal tract. The treatment series put in place by the veterinarian may be repeated as symptoms persist. 

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Recovery of Cherry Poisoning in Cats

If a diagnosis was promptly made and treatment was effective, a feline has a good chance of surviving cherry poisoning. However, if the clinical signs were not noticed until the lethal chemicals of the cherry plant were further absorbed, the feline’s chance for making a full recovery is guarded to poor. The best prevention method of cyanide toxicity in felines is to removal all cherry trees from your cat’s environment or keep the feline confined when you are not home. 

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Cherry Poisoning Average Cost

From 296 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$850

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Cherry Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Jessie

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Shorthair

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4 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Nothing Yet

I had no idea cherry stems were toxic to cats and our 4 month old kitten has been chasing a couple and chewing on them / possibly ingesting them as I can't find evidence of more than half a stem. She has no symptoms as of yet and reading a few of these has put my mind at ease but I'm still very worried and the vets aren't open today. She seems fine but should I be looking out for more than just an upset stomach / dilated pupils? Thanks!

Aug. 26, 2018

Jessie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

If Jessie ate a very small amount of cherry stems, you are probably okay to monitor her and keep her from eating any more. Any signs of GI upset - vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or decreased appetite - would be a cause for concern, and if she does those things it would be a good idea to have her seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Aug. 26, 2018

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Louie

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Unknown

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Face
Possible Lethargy
Watery Eyes With Discharge

My cat chewed on a wilting cherry tree. Her eyes are watery and face is swollen. For the first few hours she had discharge from her eyes. Her symptoms appear to be subsiding. Should I still take her in? Is this something that needs to be treated even if she appears to be improving?

July 17, 2018

Louie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

The damage to the body can occur after the outward signs of toxicity happen in cats, and it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent further damage from occurring.

July 17, 2018

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Romie

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American Shorthair

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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Nothing Yet

Should I take him in immediately or wait? He only chewed on maybe 2 to 3 stems didn't eat them just chewed. Should I be concerned or will he be ok? He doesn't seem to have any symptoms right now.. but I am worried?

July 7, 2018

Romie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

If Romie only chewed on 2=3 stems and didn't eat them, you may be okay to monitor him for any signs of toxicity. If you notice that his gums are getting redder, or his pupils are dilated, it would be a good idea to have him seen right away.

July 7, 2018

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Oliver

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Norwegian Forest Cat mix

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Nothing Yet

My cat just ate about 15 cherry stems out of my bowl when i stepped out of the room, i'm not sure why because he's never taken a interest in them before but he ate SO MANY of them, i know the pits are the most toxic but are the stems going to harm him as well? He seems fine, but i'm worried.

July 2, 2018

Oliver's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

All parts of the cherry plant other than the ripe fruit are considered toxic to cats, including the seeds, blossoms, stems, leaves and pits. The toxic component of the cherry plant is cyanide. Cyanide inhibits cytochrome oxidase, which is an important enzyme needed for cellular oxygen transport. Therefore, the cat’s cells cannot pick up oxygen to carry throughout the body and the various bodily organs will have deficient oxygen support. Because Oliver ate so many of them, I might be concerned for him, and it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible to assess his oxygenation and see if he needs any supportive care.

July 2, 2018

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Prince

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DOMESTIC

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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2 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

My cat ate three stems from cherries,should i take him to the vet.?He is acting fine right now.. Playing and running around. But he just ate them.not sure what to do

June 27, 2018

Prince's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

The stems from cherries are less toxic, and Prince should not be in danger of toxicity. Those stems may cause GI upset, however, and if he starts vomiting, having diarrhea, or becomes lethargic, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian.

June 27, 2018

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Luna

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B

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Pain

My cat had little bit of cherry flavored yoghurt and I'm not sure if I should be worried or not since cherrys are toxic but yoghurt is not could someone help please

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Rayla

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Domestic medium hair ca

dog-age-icon

Seven Months

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None So Far...

My seven month old kitten had a single cherry blossom petal stuck on her nose and licked it. I assume she swallowed it. She’s showing no symptoms. Should I be worried/take her to the vet?

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Yumi

dog-breed-icon

tabby

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My cat ate some cherry seeds, it would be at most 5 seeds. She seems to be very hungry at that time and she did not chew it and ate them directly. Are they toxic to cats? If yes, how long will any symptoms appear?

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Honey

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mixed

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My 1 year old cat, about 13lbs ate a single leaf of a cherry plant roughly the size of a thumb. Should i take her immediately to the vet or should i wait for symptoms?

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Kiki

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

7 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Nothing

My kitten has eaten a small piece of a cherry leaf, around 3cm or so. She is displaying no signs of cyanide poisoning however i am still very worried about her. What should I be watching out for and for how long does it take for symptoms to start showing? It has been around 1 hour so far and she is still actively running around. Thank you

Cherry Poisoning Average Cost

From 296 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$850

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