What is Climbing Bittersweet Poisoning?
Many cats will recover from a case of climbing bittersweet poisoning on their own without a veterinarian’s assistance. However, you should never take the “wait and see” approach, in case your cat has ingested a large amount of the plant. It’s best to take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible after spotting the symptoms of climbing bittersweet poisoning.
The climbing bittersweet plant, which is also known as the American bittersweet, waxwork, Celastrus scandens, shrubby bittersweet, and false bittersweet, is a beautiful plant that produces small, colorful fruit. These fruits may look edible, but the truth is they can be poisonous to cats. Ingestion of a small amount can cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms may be more severe when a large amount of the plant is ingested.
Symptoms of Climbing Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms will vary depending on how much of the climbing bittersweet plant your cat has ingested. Consuming a small amount of this plant may lead to gastrointestinal issues including:
However, if your cat consumes a large amount of climbing bittersweet, he may begin to experience:
Causes of Climbing Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
Climbing bittersweet poisoning is caused by exposure to the climbing bittersweet plant. However, it is not known exactly which parts of the plants are toxic. Some people believe every part of the climbing bittersweet plant can be poisonous to cats, while others believe it is only the fruit.
Diagnosis of Climbing Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
If you begin to notice any of the symptoms of climbing bittersweet poisoning, take your cat to a veterinarian right away. Tell the vet when you first began to see the symptoms, and if your cat has been exposed to anything unusual. If your cat has already started to vomit, look for pieces of plant material in the vomit and take a sample to the vet if possible.
There is no test to diagnose climbing bittersweet poisoning, so the vet will have to make a diagnosis based on the symptoms you have described, and knowledge about what potential toxins your cat has been exposed to. The vet may choose to examine the cat’s stomach contents to see if there is any evidence as to what is causing the symptoms. There should be pieces of the climbing bittersweet plant left in the stomach that will help the vet reach a final diagnosis.
Treatment of Climbing Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. If your cat is not showing any signs of extreme distress, the vet may not recommend treating him. In other cases, the vet may choose to induce vomiting to remove any plant material that still remains in the stomach. After the vet is confident the plant material has been removed from your cat’s body, he will wash the cat’s mouth with water.
Another option would be to give the cat a dose of activated charcoal, which absorbs toxins in the body before they are absorbed into the bloodstream. In time, the charcoal will pass from the cat’s body and take the absorbed toxins along with it.
If the vet does not believe it is necessary to induce vomiting or take the charcoal approach, he may focus on making your cat comfortable while he heals on his own. The vet will usually administer medication to stop vomiting and diarrhea. Kapectolin lines the stomach and protects it from any irritants that may be in the gastrointestinal tract. Another option would be Sucralfate, which turns into a thick paste and also provides protection to the stomach.
In extreme cases, your cat may need to receive IV fluids to prevent dehydration caused by excessive vomiting.
Recovery of Climbing Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
Most cats will make a full recovery shortly after experiencing symptoms of climbing bittersweet poisoning. Some cats can recover as quickly as three to four hours after ingestion, while others may take up to a full day.
Talk to the vet about what you should be feeding your cat while he recovers. The vet will likely recommend you stick to soft foods for the next few days and give your cat plenty of water to flush everything out of his system. It is important to keep your cat calm and comfortable while he regains his strength at home.
Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors are at a greater risk of encountering climbing bittersweet, so you may want to consider keeping your cat indoors to prevent exposure to this plant.