What is Easter Rose Poisoning?
The Easter rose presents a threat to house cats, as it is extremely toxic when ingested, although reports of poisonings are rare. The plant contains cardiac glycosides including helleborin, hellebrin and helleborein, which all negatively impact the function of the heart. Easter rose also contains protoanemonine, which can cause dermatitis and general irritation when contact is made internally or externally. All of these toxins can be found throughout the plant, and may lead to respiratory collapse in severe cases.
The Easter or Christmas rose (also known as bear’s foot) is a very common houseplant often sold as a festive decoration around the holidays. The plant blooms from December to April, creating a display of ornate pink or white flowers. It is an evergreen with dark, slender leaves and black roots. The Easter Rose may grow up to 1 foot in height. It is scientifically classified as Helleborus niger of the Ranunculaceae family.
Symptoms of Easter Rose Poisoning in Cats
Both internal and external symptoms may manifest after a cat has been in contact with an Easter rose. Ingestion is far more dangerous than skin exposure, however, both can cause the cat great discomfort. All signs to watch for include:
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive drooling
- Bradycardia (slowed heartbeat)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
- Behavioral changes
- Respiratory failure
Causes of Easter Rose Poisoning in Cats
Indoor cats may just as often come into contact with Easter rose as outdoor cats. This is because so many people keep Easter Rose as a decorative addition around the holidays. The plant is fairly cold hardy, and can be planted in gardens throughout the United States. Most cats are deterred from eating the plant due to the intense burning that immediately follows chewing of the leaves.
Diagnosis of Easter Rose Poisoning in Cats
Easter rose poisoning is a medical emergency and should be treated as such. Rush your cat to a veterinary clinic or animal hospital if you suspect it has eaten part of an Easter rose, or if symptoms have begun to show. Be sure to provide the cat's full medical history so that a poisoning can be differentiated from possible existing health problems. You may be asked about which type of plants you keep in your home or garden.
The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of the cat to note all symptoms. Use of a stethoscope may reveal that the cat has a slow or irregular heartbeat. Blood will be collected for standard testing including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile. This can show the cat's overall health condition. Urinalysis may be helpful to monitor how the kidneys are responding to the toxins in the body.
Treatment of Easter Rose Poisoning in Cats
There is no specific treatment for Easter Rose poisoning, so supportive care and symptomatic treatment will be the main focus to help the cat survive the event.
Remove Stomach Contents
Emptying the stomach can remove all remaining plant material and reduce the amount of toxins built up in the body. This may be done either by inducing vomit with a substance such as hydrogen peroxide, or pumping the stomach via gastric lavage.
This will be given to the cat to help absorb all remaining toxins in the digestive system and help them pass through the body without causing harm to the cat.
Demulcents (substances that relieve irritation by leaving a coating on the mouth and stomach) may be given to help reduce inflammation. Intravenous fluids may be administered to help keep the cat hydrated and flush out any toxins in the body. The heart and the kidneys should be monitored throughout the episode.
Certain medications such as atropine may be given intravenously to stimulate the sympathetic portion of the nervous system and therefore increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Recovery of Easter Rose Poisoning in Cats
There are not many recorded incidents of cats consuming Easter rose, however the potential for fatality from the toxins in the plant is very real. That being said, if the cat is treated quickly, recovery is possible and no lasting effects should be seen once the initial phase of the illness has passed. Keeping your cat indoors will protect it from coming into contact with Easter rose growing in people's gardens. Extra care will need to be taken to prevent anyone in the home from bringing in a potted Easter rose as a gift or decoration.