What is Figwort Poisoning?
Many plants and flowers may appear harmless to humans but are potentially dangerous for your cat. Figwort poisoning occurs when your cat ingests some portion of the figwort plant. This flowering plant also goes by the common names of buttercup and butter cress and is commonly found growing wild across the U.S. in pastures, fields and even cultivated in gardens. If you believe your cat is suffering from figwort poisoning you should seek immediate veterinary assistance. In any case of poisoning your cat’s chances at recovery increase with rapid veterinary care.
Symptoms of Figwort Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of figwort poisoning in your cat will vary with the amount of toxin your cat ingests. The toxins are concentrated in the flowers of the plants. Symptoms of poisoning may include:
- Redness and swelling of the mouth
- General weakness and lethargy
- Blood in the urine
Causes of Figwort Poisoning in Cats
Figwort, buttercup, and butter cress plants are green, long-stemmed plants with white to yellow or orange flowers attached to singular stalks. The plants grow wild in most parts of the U.S. The chemical that causes figwort poisoning in your cat is known as protoanemonin and is converted by your cat’s body from an oil present in the plant called ranunculin. The oil is converted into this toxic chemical when digested, then irritates the mucous membranes of your cat’s gastrointestinal tract. The highest concentrations of the poisonous chemical are found in the plant’s flowers. The seriousness of the poisoning will depend on the amount of the toxin ingested. Thankfully, the entire figwort plant is bitter tasting, which prevents most cats from consuming large quantities.
Diagnosis of Figwort Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosis of figwort poisoning in your cat will begin with a thorough physical examination in your vet’s office. It will be crucial to a quick and accurate diagnosis that you let your vet know the approximate time of onset of symptoms, as well as any change in severity or type of signs of figwort poisoning. If your cat has recently ingested portions of a plant you should carefully collect a sample to aid your vet in identifying the correct toxin.
Your vet will specifically look at your cat’s mouth and surrounding tissues for telltale signs of irritation or blistering. Your vet will next collect a urine and stool sample. The stool sample will allow your vet to rule out other conditions which may have similar signs, such as parasites or food allergies. A urine sample can be examined under a microscope for any sign of white blood cells which may indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI) as the cause for blood in the urine, rather than poisoning.
Treatment of Figwort Poisoning in Cats
Treatment of figwort poisoning in your cat will begin with your vet treating the immediate symptoms of your pet and stabilizing their vital signs. Many poisoning cases appear as emergency situations and it is important that your cat is seen by a vet as soon as possible after ingesting something toxic.
Your vet will administer medications that will help reduce tremors and seizures, both of which can cause permanent damage if allowed to continue. Medications will be given intravenously. Inserting an IV will also allow your vet to quickly administer other medications as needed.
After your cat has been stabilized, treatment will revolve around eliminating as much of the toxic material as possible from your cat’s system. This will begin with a thorough flush of your cat’s mouth. Your vet may also induce vomiting in your cat. While this can be done with IV drugs, the most common method is by using a needleless syringe to force a solution of peroxide and water into your cat’s stomach. This combination creates an immediate vomit response.
Depending on the severity of the case, your vet may choose to perform a stomach or throat lavage to rinse out the remaining figwort material. This will involve using another needleless syringe and administering saline or water which is then removed by use of a stomach tube. Depending on your cat’s condition, they may need to be sedated for this procedure.
Recovery of Figwort Poisoning in Cats
While the symptoms of figwort poisoning can be severe when your pet is exposed in large doses, most cats can make a full recovery if they have received timely veterinary care. Depending on the severity of the poisoning, your cat may need overnight observation and up to a several day stay at your vet office until they have stabilized. Your cat may also need follow up blood and urine tests to check kidney and other organ function to confirm they were not damaged by either the poisoning or various medications administered during the treatment.
With prompt veterinary attention, your cat should live a long and healthy life after recovering from figwort poisoning.