What is Fetterbush Poisoning?
Fetterbush poisoning in cats is a type of plant toxicity caused by direct ingestion of any portion of the fetterbush plant. The foliage portions of this plant are especially poisonous, but all portions of the plant contain some level of glycosides. Symptoms of fetterbush poisoning in cats occur from a few minutes to a few hours after ingestion, depending on the quantity that the feline consumed.
Symptoms of Fetterbush Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of fetterbush poisoning in cats occur from a few minutes to a few hours after ingestion, depending on the quantity that the feline consumed. The active toxin, grayanotoxin, will cause the feline to have difficulties breathing, an irregular heart rate, and tremors. In the initial stages of fetterbush poisoning, the feline will develop diarrhea, vomit and become dizzy due to a drop in blood pressure. Clinical signs a feline will show after ingesting the fetterbush plant are listed below from initial to secondary stages:
- Excessive salivation
- Perspiration from the nose and paw pads
- Abnormal sensation in the limbs (numbness, burning or pricks)
- Low blood pressure
- Sinus bradycardia
The andromedotoxin agent found in the stems, flowers, and leaves of fetterbush cause a burning sensation in the mouth, which usually discourages further consumption of the plant. However, if a large quantity of the plant is consumed, then the feline will develop convulsions and go into a coma, which will lead to eventual death. Clinical signs a feline will display if he or she has ingested a large quantity of the fetterbush plant are listed below:
- Loss of coordination
- Muscular weakness
- Ventricular tachycardia
- Nodal rhythm syndrome
Causes of Fetterbush Poisoning in Cats
Fetterbush poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestion of any portion of the fetterbush plant. The foliage portions of this plant are especially poisonous, but all portions of the plant contain some level of glycosides, such as Andromedotoxin that acts similar to the toxin turpentine. The primary toxic element in the fetterbush plant is grayanotoxins such as asebotoxin, rhodotoxin, acetylandromedol, and andromedotoxin. When grayanotoxins are ingested, they target cell membranes and bind to the cell’s receptor site. The cell can then no longer become inactivated and remain in a stage of excitability. Therefore, the electrical current between nerve and muscles (aka. the heart) cells is disrupted, preventing the cells from returning to a state of normality.
In order for the feline to develop a serious state of fetterbush-sourced intoxication, the cat would need to consume at least 0.2% of his or her body weight in plant vegetation. Although, any amount of the fetterbush plant consumed, no matter the percentage compared to the felines body weight, will cause some state of toxicity.
Diagnosis of Fetterbush Poisoning in Cats
The best way to diagnose a fetterbush poisoning in a cat is to witness the feline consuming the plant. If you do witness your cat licking, chewing or eating a Fetter Bush plant, take the plant with you to your cat’s veterinary appointment. If you have not observed the cat consuming plant material, the veterinarian will base his or her diagnosis off your cat’s presenting clinical signs.
Treatment of Fetterbush Poisoning in Cats
A feline that has ingested any amount of fetterbush material should seek veterinary medical attention immediately. The main treatment option for fetterbush poisoning in cats is symptomatic and supportive care therapies. If the veterinarian deems appropriate, the feline may receive oxygen therapy to support difficulties breathing. As the toxic elements in the fetterbush plant target important involuntary muscles such as the heart, the veterinarian may choose to administer atropine or a sodium channel blocker to prevent the toxin from disruption the electric current between the cells. The feline may be given intravenous fluids in an attempt to flush the toxin from the blood through the urinary system. Fluid therapy will also aid in diluting the chemical and may aid the cat’s condition. If the feline has not vomited or the veterinarian feels the feline should vomit again to further remove undigested fetterbush vegetation from the stomach, an emetic may be administered.
Recovery of Fetterbush Poisoning in Cats
The active toxin, grayanotoxin, is metabolized rather quickly but it can also be excreted rather rapidly if treatment has been received. If the feline received veterinary medical treatment, then that feline should begin to appear better within a few hours and make a full recovery within about nine to 24 hours. The prognosis for fetterbush poisoning in cats greatly depends on the amount of plant matter than was consumed.