What is Dahlia Poisoning?
Dahlias are a species of flower originating in Central America. Although they have in the past been used as a source of food, nowadays they enjoy a reputation as an eye-catching ornamental flower with a pleasant aroma and as such, they can be found in gardens in many temperate regions of the globe. However, if ingested, certain parts of the flower can prove quite toxic to many wild animals and household pets, including cats.
Symptoms of Dahlia Poisoning in Cats
Fortunately, the symptoms caused by ingesting parts of the dahlia plant are typically quite mild and relatively short-lived, so many cats will appear almost normal to their owners as no serious damage is done. In case of a severe reaction, however, it is important that owners take a careful note of the symptoms and their progression before presenting the animal to a vet, as this will make diagnosis much easier.
- Refusal to eat
- Unstable gait
- Loss of coordination
- Skin irritation
Causes of Dahlia Poisoning in Cats
At the time of writing, it is currently unknown as to exactly which chemicals are present within the dahlia in order to cause the aforementioned symptoms. That said, there are several things that can be inferred from the taxonomy of the plant. Dahlias are a variety of 'asteraceae', placing them within the same family of plants as the chrysanthemum and chamomile flowers. Because of this, it most likely shares some of the same compounds as them, including essential oils and acidic irritants. The acids will typically cause digestive upset, explaining the nausea and aversion to food, whilst essential oils can have a number of harmful effects on cats. These effects include cognitive and motor skill impairment as well as dermatitis, which would explain the lethargy and rashes that cats who ingest dahlia flowers will experience.
Diagnosis of Dahlia Poisoning in Cats
Presently, as the exact chemical causes of dahlia poisoning are unknown, there are no medical tests that can be done in order to identify the cause of the symptoms. Typically, the vet will rely upon a physical examination of the cat (possibly in addition to direct imaging of the digestive tract) in order to make their diagnosis. This means that when taking the cat to the veterinary clinic, it is important for owners to accurately describe the cat's symptoms and their progression. This will provide the fastest route to an accurate diagnosis, short of actually seeing the cat ingest the dahlia.
Treatment of Dahlia Poisoning in Cats
The most common (and effective) method for treating poisoning is for the vet to start fluid therapy for the cat. By intravenously introducing liquid into the cat's bloodstream, the vet will be able to both replace any fluids lost to vomiting as well as dilute the toxins present in the body. This will result in a rapid fading of the dermatitis and should cause the animal's energy levels to increase slightly. It will also be necessary to limit the cat's activity for a few days after the poisoning in order to give it plenty of time to rest and properly recover.
Recovery of Dahlia Poisoning in Cats
The symptoms of dahlia poisoning will usually last for approximately forty eight hours. After this, most cats will make a speedy recovery and will be back to their old selves within the space of about a week. A vet will normally not require a follow-up appointment after the cat's initial visit to the clinic unless there are secondary complications that need to be addressed. To aid recovery however, it may be prudent for owners to scale down the portions of food that they give to their cat for about a week after the poisoning. This will give the stomach and digestive tract ample time to recover from the shock of ingesting the dahlia plant.