What is Good Luck Plant Poisoning?

All parts of the plant are toxic to cats and contain soluble calcium oxalates, which are spike-like compounds that embed themselves when ingested. Unlike insoluble calcium oxalate that embeds itself immediately in the mouth and throat, soluble oxalates do not do damage until they reach the kidneys, where they become embedded. Because the plant is bitter and unappetizing, it is unlikely that a cat will ingest a large amount, however, because of possible damage to kidneys, veterinary care and advice should be sought if you witness your cat ingesting a good luck plant.

The good luck plant, (Oxalis spp.) also known as shamrock or sorrel plant comes in many different varieties. It is an ornamental bulb with leaves in clusters of three. Leaves are usually green or purple and there are a variety of flower colors, although white is common. They are grown as houseplants or in the garden in hardiness zones 8 or 9. 

Symptoms of Good Luck Plant Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of good luck plant poisoning do not appear right away, as soluble calcium oxalate does not embed itself in the upper gastrointestinal tract and does not produce symptoms in your cat until the oxalate compounds reach the kidneys.

Once symptoms of toxicity appear they include:

  • Agitation
  • Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Tremors
  • Blood in the urine
  • Changes in water intake and urine production
  • Renal failure (in severe cases) 

Causes of Good Luck Plant Poisoning in Cats

The good luck plants contain soluble calcium oxalates which are needle-like, sharp compounds that become imbedded in the kidneys, causing symptoms of toxicity and damage to the kidneys. Insoluble oxalates become embedded immediately in the mouth and throat, therefore poisoning is more often associated with the plant ingested, however, because soluble oxalates do not imbed themselves in the mouth and symptoms of distress do not show up until they reach the kidneys, the cause of toxicity is not always easy to identify. The good luck plant is kept as an ornamental houseplant or in the garden in warm climates, making it accessible to pet cats. Because the plant is bitter tasting it is usually unappetizing to cats. In addition, a large amount of plant would have to be ingested to be fatal, therefore fatal poisoning is rare.

Diagnosis of Good Luck Plant Poisoning in Cats

Because of the time delay in the appearance of symptoms after ingestion of good luck plant material, diagnosis can be difficult. If you see see your cat ingest a plant followed by symptoms, even delayed symptoms, take a sample of the plant to your veterinarian to help with diagnosis. As the symptoms of good luck plant poisoning are similar to those from other conditions, your veterinarian may take blood and urine samples and perform tests to rule out other conditions. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination and take a medical history, especially noting symptoms related to kidney malfunction. Your cat's vital signs and symptoms will be monitored to determine the extent of intervention required.

Treatment of Good Luck Plant Poisoning in Cats

If the good luck plant was ingested recently and treatment received before symptoms appear, your veterinarian may take steps to purge the plant from your cat's system by inducing vomiting or minimize damage by administering medication that will bind with the compounds and render them less harmful as they pass through your cat's system. Purging of the plant from your cat's system is usually not possible, as ingestions typically occur well before illness appears.

Usually, symptoms of damage occurring in the kidneys have appeared by the time veterinary care is obtained and treatment consists of supportive care for your cat, including painkillers, intravenous fluid, and medication to support kidney functioning. Dialysis may be used to support kidney function until the oxalates have cleared your cat's system.

Recovery of Good Luck Plant Poisoning in Cats

If your cat has ingested good luck plant, remove the plant from your cat's environment to prevent a repeat incident. Because a significant amount of time passes between ingestion and symptoms your cat will not associate the plant with the illness and develop aversion, so may sample the plant again.

It may take several days for the oxalates to pass through your cat's system. Supportive care as directed by your veterinarian, including any medications, will need to be administered. If renal failure is occurring, dialysis may be required and will required ongoing treatment from your veterinarian. Follow up with your veterinarian is recommended to ensure symptoms are addressed and kidney function restored. Follow up urine tests may be recommended. During recovery, your cat may be fed a special diet to support kidney functioning and minimize oxalate absorption and damage.