What is Feather Geranium Poisoning?
Feather geranium plants get their toxic abilities, not from inherited lethal chemicals, but the environmental factors the plant developed in. Like several other Chenopodiaceae plant species, the feather geranium contains cyanogenic glycosides, nitrates and oxalates, which do not generally cause harm in low quantities. Plants naturally possess these chemicals as regular functioning elements and remain low under normal growing conditions. An animal can eat these plants of low chemical value and, in most cases, their bodies will naturally separate the chemicals into waste product. However, plants which grow into harsh environments, like in times of drought or desert-like conditions, the chemical levels raise to lethal levels. If a cat consumes these lethal chemicals, the nitrate will transform to nitrite, which will be absorbed in the blood stream and reduce the feline’s ability to transport oxygen. The end result is fatal as the consumed feather geranium plant has caused the feline to suffer nitrate poisoning.
Feather geranium poisoning in cats is a form of plant toxicity caused by the direct or indirect ingestion of the feather geranium plant. The feather geranium is part of the Chenopodiaceae family and can be identified by its scientific name, Ambrosia mexicana or may be known by the name, Jerusalem oak. The feather geranium can be found throughout the world, including North America, as this plant is highly adaptable and can grow in a variety of soil types. The feather geranium is highly toxic to felines, humans, dogs and ruminants, such as sheep or cattle.
Symptoms of Feather Geranium Poisoning in Cats
Feather geranium poisoning in cats will cause irritation to the skin around and inside the mouth. As the feline’s body tries to reject the toxic substance, gastrointestinal upset may occur, such as vomiting or diarrhea. The feline may refuse to eat or drink, as well as display visible signs of depression. A complete list of feather geranium poisoning symptoms are listed below:
- Gastrointestinal upset (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
- Rapid breathing
- Labored breathing
- Dark colored mucous membranes
- Staggering gait
- Dark or brown colored blood
- Cardiac irregularities
Causes of Feather Geranium Poisoning in Cats
Feather geranium poisoning in cats is caused by consuming the leaves, stems or seeds of the feather geranium plant. A feline can consume the plant directly by chewing on the leaves or indirectly by grooming, or ingesting soil containing the ambrosia seed. The toxic components of the Feather Geranium plant are cyanogenic glycosides, oxalates and nitrates, which transforms to nitrite. The end result is a nitrite poisoning as the lethal chemicals from the plant are absorbed in the blood stream.
Diagnosis of Feather Geranium Poisoning in Cats
The best way to diagnose a feather geranium poisoning in a cat is to witness the feline consuming the plant. If you do witness your cat licking, chewing or eating a feather geranium plant, take the plant with you to your cat’s veterinary appointment. If you have not witnessed plant consumption, the veterinarian will base his or her diagnosis off your cat’s presenting clinical signs. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, review of the feline’s medical history and a consultation with the pet owner. Unfortunately, feather geranium nitrite poisoning symptoms mimic the symptoms of cyanide poisoning, so your veterinarian will need to conduct a diagnostic differential. The easiest way for a veterinarian to rule out cyanide poisoning is to take a sample of your cat’s blood. When a feline is suffering a cyanide toxicity, her/his blood will be a bright red, cherry color, whereas a nitrite toxicity will cause the feline’s blood to turn a dark brown, chocolate color.
Diagnostic tests the veterinarian will likely request to be performed on the feline include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal floatation test
- Fecal examination
Treatment of Feather Geranium Poisoning in Cats
Feather geranium poisoning is generally treated with methylene blue administered intravenously. Methylene blue works by reducing the ferric iron in hemoglobin (red blood cells) to the ferrous state. Therefore, this therapeutic agent converts methemoglobin cells that don’t carry oxygen into hemoglobin cells that will once again be receptive to oxygen transport. The veterinarian may pair the use of methylene blue with mineral oil. Used as a cathartic, mineral oil can aid in a faster defecation and speed up the removal of nitrate material from the feline’s gastrointestinal tract. The treatment series put in place by the veterinarian may be repeated as symptoms persist.
Recovery of Feather Geranium Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis for a cat with feather geranium poisoning depends on how quickly veterinary medical attention was sought out. If the feline was taken immediately to seek veterinary care and received treatment before seizing occurred, the prognosis for the feline is generally good.