What is Coontie Palm Poisoning?
The coontie palm contains cycasin, which severely affects the liver. While all parts of this plant are poisonous, the seeds or nuts are considered to be the most deadly for animals. Symptoms can show up within fifteen minutes to several hours; signs of liver failure and central nervous system involvement can show up two to three days after your cat eats this palm.
Coontie palms, found in subtropical and subtropical areas, are commonly used as ornamental Bonsai plants. This plant is highly poisonous for cats, sometimes leading to liver malfunction and death if ingested.
Symptoms of Coontie Palm Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms can show up well within three hours of your cat eating any part of this plant. Initial symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst
- Vomiting (sometimes bloody)
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Bruising of cat’s skin
- Black, tarry stool (melena)
- Accumulation of fluid in cat’s abdomen
- Abdominal pain
Later symptoms may include:
- Uncoordinated muscles
Types of coontie palm include:
- Cardboard palm
- Japanese Cycad
Causes of Coontie Palm Poisoning in Cats
Your cat needs attention, mental stimulation, and daily play sessions. If it does not receive these, it will become bored and look for ways to keep itself entertained. If this leads to nibbling on house plants or outdoor landscaping, this can result in severe, possibly fatal poisoning if your cat eats even a little bit of coontie palm.
This plant, which isn’t a true palm, contains cycasin, which goes straight into your cat’s liver and central nervous system. Your cat can also develop clotting problems and abnormal bleeding. If your cat receives immediate veterinary treatment, its prognosis may be good, but you need to have a good idea of what has caused your cat’s illness.
Diagnosis of Coontie Palm Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of coontie palm poisoning don’t point directly to poisoning. The cat’s illness may look like an abdominal disorder at first. This is why it’s so important for you to tell your vet what the cat ate to make it so ill. As the poisoning progresses, your cat’s central nervous system and liver are involved, making its condition that much more serious.
Your vet will give your cat a full physical and take blood and urine samples. The samples will be used to diagnose any potential liver involvement so the most appropriate treatment can be started just as quickly as possible. Veterinary decontamination and treatment must be aggressive and quick so your cat stands a better chance of recovery. Because the coontie palm is so poisonous, it has a mortality rate of about 30 percent. Even with immediate treatment, the survival rate only stands at approximately 50 percent.
Treatment of Coontie Palm Poisoning in Cats
No antidote exists for cycasin poisoning. This means your vet will need to decontaminate your cat’s body of the poison it has ingested by giving your cat activated charcoal. This binds to the cycasin and other poisons, removing them from your cat’s system. The vet will also induce vomiting, removing the bits of plant and seeds your cat ate. If this treatment is started early enough, it may prevent cycasin from being absorbed by your cat’s stomach. Its stomach may also be pumped.
Your cat will also be given intravenous fluid to help rehydrate it and help it to regain needed strength to fight the effects of poisoning.
Once these treatments have been completed, the vet may administer anti-nausea medication, vitamin K injections, and anti-seizure medication. Medications that help to stabilize your cat’s brain, gastrointestinal tract, and liver will also be given to your pet. These medications may help improve your cat’s chances of survival.
Recovery of Coontie Palm Poisoning in Cats
The coontie palm and its toxic ingredient (cycasin) are potentially deadly. Only one-half of pets that are poisoned survive, so it is extremely important that, as soon as you realize your cat ate this plant, you obtain veterinary care.
If your cat survives and is able to go home, it will need to be regularly seen so your vet can look for signs of permanent damage. Part of follow-up treatment includes a special diet to reduce the chances that liver damage will result. You’ll need to watch your cat closely for signs of liver or neurological involvement.
If early treatment was not received, the prognosis is poor; palliative care or humane euthanasia may be recommended.