What is Climbing Nightshade Poisoning?
Unfortunately, every part of the climbing nightshade plant contains solanine and dulcamarine, two toxins that are extremely dangerous to cats when ingested. The berries of this plant are the most toxic, especially those that have not fully ripened. These toxins can cause vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, weakness, increased heart rate, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils and convulsions.
If left untreated, symptoms will begin to worsen. Eventually, your cat may suffer from organ damage or respiratory failure as a result of the poisoning, which can be fatal. Don’t hesitate to take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you spot the symptoms of this poisoning or see him eating a climbing nightshade plant.
Climbing nightshade, which is also known as woody nightshade, European bittersweet, and bittersweet nightshade, is a shrub or vine with thin stems and brightly colored purple flowers and red berries. The plant has a powerful odor that makes it unappealing to most animals, but some curious cats will still nibble on it despite its strong smell.
Symptoms of Climbing Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms may begin soon after ingesting part of the climbing nightshade plant and worsen as time goes on. Some of the symptoms your cat may begin to exhibit include:
- Excessive salivation
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of coordination
- Nasal discharge
- Extreme trembling
- Muscular weakness
- Leg paralysis, in extreme cases
Causes of Climbing Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
Climbing nightshade poisoning is caused by ingestion of the climbing nightshade plant. Every part of the plant is poisonous, however the berries have the highest concentration of toxins. Climbing nightshade plants contain solanine and dulcamarine, two toxins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and damage to the central nervous system when ingested. The toxicity of the plant varies and depends on a number of factors including the climate, maturity of the plant, and soil.
Diagnosis of Climbing Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
Take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible after symptoms begin. If you saw your cat eating part of this plant, bring it to the vet so he can identify it. It may also be helpful to bring a sample of the cat’s vomit, which may contain pieces of the plant. Describe the symptoms you have witnessed thus far, and if possible, tell your vet when they began as well.
If you are unsure of what your cat ate to cause these symptoms, the vet will probably begin by performing a blood chemistry profile, complete blood count test, and urinalysis. This will show the presence of the toxins found in climbing nightshade and allow the vet to determine the severity of your cat’s condition. The vet may also examine the contents of your cat’s stomach to look for pieces of the plant, which would confirm a diagnosis of climbing nightshade poisoning.
Treatment of Climbing Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
Treatment will need to begin immediately following a diagnosis. The vet may use an IV line to provide fluids that will help your cat maintain his strength and prevent dehydration.
There is no proven antidote to climbing nightshade poisoning. If the plant was recently ingested, the vet may begin by inducing vomiting. The cat’s stomach may be washed with fluids afterward to remove any toxins that may remain in the lining of the stomach cavity. Sometimes, activated charcoal is also administered. Charcoal is one of nature’s most powerful absorbers, so it can absorb toxins in your cat’s body before they enter the bloodstream.
In severe cases which the respiratory and heart rate has been affected, the vet may also administer oxygen to stabilize your cat during treatment. Your cat’s vital signs will be closely monitored to look for any sudden, alarming changes. Medication can also be administered to treat extreme trembling.
Recovery of Climbing Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
The vet will most likely keep your cat following treatment so he can continue to monitor his condition. The earlier you take your cat into a vet for treatment, the better his chances are at making a full recovery. If you wait too long to get your cat medical help, the poisoning may be fatal.
Once you have your cat back at home, keep him comfortable and calm while he recovers. Talk to your vet about any changes you need to make to his diet while his body regains strength. The vet may recommend sticking to softer foods and lots of water for the next few days.
You will need to prevent future exposure to the climbing nightshade plant. Even if you remove the plant from your yard, it’s best to keep your cat indoors so he does not come into contact with it in someone else’s yard.