What is False Bittersweet Poisoning?
The false bittersweet plant is a member of the Celastraceae family and is known around the world by its scientific name, Celastrus scandens. To many, the bittersweet plant is known by its common names such as; the American bittersweet, the climbing bittersweet, the shrubby bittersweet, waxwork, and bittersweet. The false bittersweet plant can be seen growing in drier, woodland areas and is identified by its sturdy, perennial vines that can reach lengths of up to 30 feet. The stems are a yellowish green color that will bloom from June to July, bearing small, bright colored fruits no larger than a pea.
A false bittersweet poisoning in cats is a plant based toxicity caused by the ingestion of the false bittersweet plant. The toxic components of this plant have not been well identified, but it is believed that sesquiterpene and euonymus alkaloids are the bittersweet’s toxic principles. Experts have also yet to agree on the toxic portions of this deciduous plant. As some researchers believe the brightly colored bunches of fruit the bittersweet plant bears to be the most poisonous, others argue that the roots are the source of the plant’s toxic nature. As the question of what portion of the false bittersweet plant is poisonous remains unanswered, it is wise to assume all portions of the plant to be toxic to felines. On the positive side, feline poisoning from the false bittersweet plant is generally mild and does not usually require veterinary attention.
Symptoms of False Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
The false bittersweet plant is believed to contain saponins that tend to cause a burning sensation to the mouth when bitten into. A feline may experience a mild to severe discomfort of the mouth and throat, which may lead to tissue swelling. If the feline tolerates a large consumption of the plant, the secondary toxin component known as alkaloids can cause gastrointestinal distress. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common clinical signs of consuming the false bittersweet plant, however, the central nervous system can also be affected. In rare cases, a large consumption of the false bittersweet plant can cause the cat to seize and show signs of an overall weakness.
Causes of False Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
The toxic principles of the false bittersweet plant have not been well established, but are believed to share similar toxic components of the Celastraceae family. Alkaloids, saponins, euonymins, and cardenolides are all potential toxic principles of the false bittersweet plant, but very little research has been completed. The exact location of toxicity in the plant is also very vague and it can be assumed that all portions of the plant are capable of causing feline toxicity.
Diagnosis of False Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
A diagnosis of a false bittersweet poisoning in cats can be accomplished by either witnessing the ingestion of the plant or through a differential diagnostic process. If you have witnessed your cat consuming the false bittersweet plant, bring a small portion if the plant in with you to the veterinary appointment to allow the veterinarian to pinpoint the problem. If you have not witnessed the ingestion of the toxic plant, but believe the bittersweet plant is to blame for your cat’s condition, the veterinarian will have to make his/her diagnosis based on clinical signs. As the clinical signs associated with a False Bittersweet poisoning resemble the symptoms of a variety of other feline conditions, a series of differential diagnostic tests will need to be performed. The veterinarian will begin with a review of your cat’s medical history, a physical examination, blood work, a urinalysis, and fecal examination.
Treatment of False Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
Most of the time, a false bittersweet poisoning in cats does not require veterinary attention. If your cat has vomited and the symptoms have seized, the toxin has likely been removed from the cat’s system. However, if your cat has not vomited or has vomited profusely, veterinary medical attention is required. The vet may administer an emetic drug to encourage the feline to vomit if she hasn’t already and if she has, fluids paired with electrolytes will be administered to restore hydration. If swelling of the mouth and throat is present, the veterinarian may administer an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory drug.
Recovery of False Bittersweet Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis for a false bittersweet poisoning in cats is highly positive. The feline will usually make a full recovery within a few hours after expelling the toxin or receiving veterinary medical treatment. The burning sensation of the false bittersweet plant usually discourages most felines from ingesting the plant to a toxic state, but if you can, prevent a case of poisoning by simply removing the plant from the feline’s environment.