What is Eastern Star Poisoning?
The leaves of the Eastern star contain toxic triterpenoid saponins that cause irritation both on the skin and in the oral cavity if eaten or touched by a cat. Gastrointestinal upset is also a common response if a large portion of the plant is consumed. Eastern star is often cultivated for its medicinal uses for humans and the plant also grows wild throughout the United States, even though it is native to Eastern Europe and Asiatic areas. It should be noted that cases of poisoning by Eastern star in cats are rare, and the vast majority are not life-threatening.
Eastern star is a perennial herb often called “pinks”, “sweet William” or “wild carnation” that is known for its brightly colored, fragrant flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer. The blossoms come in combinations of reds, pinks, purples and whites. They are made up of five petals which are often frilled at the edges. The leaves of the Eastern star are narrow and generally blue-gray in color. The plant can grow up to two feet in height.
Symptoms of Eastern Star Poisoning in Cats
The toxic irritants found in the leaves of the Eastern star cause inflammation wherever they come in contact, either internally or externally. All signs to watch for are listed as follows:
Causes of Eastern Star Poisoning in Cats
Because of the plant's cheerful and colorful flowers, it is often kept as a houseplant in addition to its use in outdoor landscaping. Cats with a very curious nature or young kittens may be more likely to sample the Eastern star, although an extremely large amount must be consumed for a toxic response to follow.
Diagnosis of Eastern Star Poisoning in Cats
If your cat begins to exhibit symptoms of gastrointestinal distress and copious amounts of plant materials are present in the expelled contents, poisoning should be suspected. Bring the cat into a veterinary clinic to be assessed professionally. You may be asked to provide the cat's full medical history to help the vet rule out other potential causes of digestive upset in the cat. You may also be asked if your cat is allowed outdoors, and what plants you keep in your home.
The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination of the cat to check for abnormalities. Any rashes or irritation of the skin will be addressed at this time. Blood samples will be taken for tests to be run including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to check the overall health of the animal. Urinalysis may also be needed to measure the function of the internal organs.
Treatment of Eastern Star Poisoning in Cats
While Eastern star poisoning is generally mild, treatment may still be needed to ease discomfort caused by symptoms in the cat. Hospitalization is only required if the cat has been expelling orally or rectally for an extended period of time.
Rinse the Mouth
Washing out the mouth of the cat will help remove all plant material stuck in the teeth and under the tongue to help lessen oral irritation.
Remove Stomach Contents
The veterinarian will either induce the cat to vomit with hydrogen peroxide or perform a gastric lavage (stomach pump) to remove all remaining plant material in the stomach. This will prevent the cat from digesting any more toxins. Another rinsing of the mouth will be needed after the stomach contents are removed.
This can be given to neutralize all remaining toxins in the digestive tract by trapping them and passing them through the cat without being broken down.
Medications such as diphenhydramine can reduce reactions on the skin caused by Eastern star exposure.
If the cat has become dehydrated from a lengthened period of vomiting or diarrhea, intravenous fluids can be used to rehydrate the animal. It will need to be hospitalized during this treatment.
Recovery of Eastern Star Poisoning in Cats
Most cats who have eaten Eastern Star to the point of toxicity will make a full recovery within 4-24 hours after the incident. While symptoms can be unpleasant, the incident is generally not lethal to cats. To prevent your cat from being poisoned by Eastern star consumption, ensure it the plant is not inside of your home. Keep your cat indoors to protect it from all toxic plants that may be found outdoors.