What is Fig Poisoning?
Like many plants, while figs are perfectly safe for humans, the fruit, leaves and sap of figs and fig trees is toxic and irritating to your cat. While the toxicity of figs is low to moderate, if you suspect your cat has ingested any toxic substance you should seek immediate veterinary care. Your cat’s chances for long-term recovery from poisoning improve with rapid veterinary attention immediately after exposure.
Figs are common fruits that have been grown for centuries. Fig plants, also known as weeping fig or ficus, are also popular indoor and outdoor ornamental plants. Their long, glossy green leaves make for attractive indoor foliage. Unfortunately, the same qualities that humans find attractive in figs can also entice your kitty, which can prove dangerous for their health.
Symptoms of Fig Poisoning in Cats
Fig poisoning in your cat will cause a mild to moderate irritation for your pet. Symptoms that your cat is suffering from fig poisoning include:
- Increased drooling or watering of the mouth
- Shaking of the head
- Skin irritation including open, weeping sores, or dermatitis
Causes of Fig Poisoning in Cats
Fig poisoning in your cat occurs when your pet ingests any part of a fig or fig-producing tree. Creeping fig, weeping fig, ficus and Indian rubber plant are all common names for fig trees. You can identify a fig tree by its long, glossy green leaves. Figs are typically evergreens and will keep their leaves year round when grown indoors, making them popular plants for homes and offices.
Figs trees also produce fruit (figs) which, while safe for humans to eat, are also dangerous if your cat ingests them. The toxic substances in fig plants are proteolytic enzyme (ficin) and psoralen (ficusin), both of which can attack the DNA of your cat’s cells. The highest concentration of these substances is in the milky sap produced by the leaves and branches of the plant.
Diagnosis of Fig Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosis of fig poisoning in your cat will begin with a thorough veterinary exam. During your visit, you should provide your vet with a complete medical and physical history of your cat. If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of poisoning, it will be important to provide as many details as possible regarding onset of symptoms including timing, any changes or worsening or improvement and your cat’s approximate time of exposure. With all suspected cases of poisoning, you should bring a sample of whatever item they may have ingested along with you to your vet’s office. This will allow your veterinarian to more accurately diagnose what type of substance your cat may have ingested and prescribe the best treatment options.
Your vet will closely examine your cat’s mouth and skin and will use special equipment to listen for breath and heart sounds to determine whether they are experiencing any distress. Your vet may also choose to take a blood sample to test for other causes of the symptoms, but if poisoning is suspected they will most likely have to begin treatment prior to definitive results being available from the laboratory.
Treatment of Fig Poisoning in Cats
As in most cases of poisoning, treatment will begin with stabilizing your pet if they are experiencing distress. This may involve administering special drugs via IV or injection that help regulate heart rate and breathing. Your cat will need to be admitted while undergoing these procedures and may have to stay multiple nights at the hospital or vet’s office.
Once your cat is stabilized, your vet will attempt to eliminate any additional figs from their system. This is done initially by inducing vomiting with a special solution of fluid infused with a small percentage of hydrogen peroxide. You should never attempt to induce vomiting in your cat at home unless under the direction of a veterinarian. Vomiting can cause potentially life-threatening side effects such as aspiration pneumonia if your cat is not monitored closely throughout the process.
Depending on the amount of fig your cat has eaten, the vet may also administer activated charcoal through a tube inserted into your cat’s mouth and then down their throat directly into their stomach. Activated charcoal can help neutralize many toxins by absorbing harmful chemicals and neutralizing their effect, allowing them to pass harmlessly through your cat’s digestive system.
Recovery of Fig Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of fig poisoning are generally mild and most cats will make a full recovery after ingestion. If your cat is experiencing vomiting and diarrhea, it may take several days of special food and medications in order for their systems to recover enough to go back to a regular diet.
As with all cases of poisoning, your cat will have the best chance at recovering from fig poisoning if you seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as possible after exposure.