What is European Bittersweet Poisoning?
Severity of poisoning depends on the amount ingested. Although European bittersweet poisoning is not generally life-threatening, you should take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect it has ingested European bittersweet in any quantity.
The European bittersweet plant, commonly known as climbing nightshade and deadly nightshade, is toxic to many animals, including cats. Recognize the European bittersweet by its vivid purple, star-shaped flowers and thin stems. European bittersweet contains several toxins, primarily solanine. This poisonous substance is found in common foods such as sprouting potatoes and tomatoes. Solanine glycoalkaloids act as insecticides in plants.
Symptoms of European Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of European bittersweet poisoning may be nonspecific, and will vary depending on how much of the plant your cat ingested. Symptoms may not manifest immediately, as the bloodstream typically absorbs solanine slowly. Be aware of the following symptoms, and take your cat to the vet immediately as soon as you notice them:
- Signs of depression
- Lethargy and weakness
- Low blood pressure
- Weak or slow heart rate
Causes of European Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
The primary cause of European bittersweet poisoning in cats is ingestion. The amount of solanine present in a given plant will vary based on several factors, including exposure to sunlight, the type of soil in which the plant grows, and climate. Every part of the European nightshade plant contains solanine, and is therefore toxic. Since the flower has a strong bitter odor and flavor, it is unlikely that your cat will ingest large quantities of European bittersweet. Ingesting small amounts of the flower causes milder poisoning. However, any type of plant poisoning should always be treated as a veterinary emergency. Ingesting large amounts of the European bittersweet may cause problems in the cardiac, respiratory, and central nervous systems.
Diagnosis of European Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
You should call your vet before you arrive to let them know they will need to treat an emergency case of European bittersweet poisoning. If the European bittersweet is a house plant, take a sample of it with you when you go to the vet if you can. Having an approximate estimate of how much of the plant your cat ingested may be helpful for your vet when making the diagnosis.
You should always tell your vet how long your cat has been experiencing symptoms. Your vet will confirm European bittersweet poisoning using standard diagnostic testing, which typically includes blood and urine tests. Other tests may be utilized based on your cat’s specific symptoms, or if cardiac or respiratory system damage is suspected.
Treatment of European Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
There is no antidote available for European bittersweet poisoning at present. Mild cases of poisoning are generally treated with supportive therapy, including intravenous fluid and nutritional therapies to correct fluid imbalances. Your vet may induce vomiting immediately to help clear the poison from your cat’s stomach. Activated charcoal will absorb any toxins in the stomach. If your cat is having seizures, your vet will prescribe medications that control seizures and convulsions.
Severe cases of poisoning in which large quantities were ingested may warrant hospitalization. Ingesting large quantities of European bittersweet can result in severe cardiac and respiratory complications. Oxygen supplementation and the administration of vasopressors may be required in such cases. Your vet may recommend dietary changes, as the ingestion of plants can be indicative of poor nutrition in some cases.
Recovery of European Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
Recovery and prognosis may vary depending on the severity of poisoning, the symptoms present, and how quickly it was treated. Most cats recover from European bittersweet poisoning within twenty-four hours.
Always follow any dietary guidelines your vet recommends. If your cat came into contact with European bittersweet while they were outdoors, it might be a good idea to reduce your cat’s outdoor activity to prevent future cases of poisoning. If you grew or purchased the European bittersweet as a house plant, remove it from your home immediately. Always research plants before purchasing them to make sure they aren’t toxic to your cat.
For most mild cases of poisoning, follow-up appointments are generally not necessary. For cats that have been seriously poisoned or sustained cardiac, respiratory, or central nervous system damage, your vet may schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor healing.
If your cat is showing signs of neurological dysfunction or distress after treatment, contact your vet immediately.