What is Hercules Club Poisoning?
Hercules club grows large clusters of off-white flowers that then turn into dark colored berries. These berries contain toxins when they are unripe which can cause illness in cats. The toxins contained in the tree are a type of glycoside called “araliins”, and can also be found in the bark and roots. If the bark contacts the skin of a cat, a dermal reaction may follow. Humans have long used Hercules club to treat tooth pain and other ailments. When the plant material is crushed it gives off a lime-like aroma.
The Hercules club is a small shrub or tree that is native to the United States. It goes by many names, including the devil's walking stick, angelica tree, prickly ash or prickly elder. It is of the Araliaceae family and is classified as Aralia spinos. The Hercules club is a deciduous tree whose leaves turn orange or red in the autumn. The new foliage comes in as a bronze color. Hercules Club tends to not exceed more than 20 feet in height.The tree is covered in prickly thorns, which is how is came to be called a Hercules club, as the mythical character’s favorite weapon was a wooden club with spikes.
Symptoms of Hercules Club Poisoning in Cats
Both internal and external symptoms may follow exposure to the Hercules club. Symptoms may only last a short period of time due to the mild level of toxicity of the Hercules club.
- Excessive drooling
- Oral irritation
Causes of Hercules Club Poisoning in Cats
The highest risk of poisoning from the Hercules club tree to cats is from the unripened berries. As this plant is a tree, generally only outdoor cats will be exposed to it. If you live near forested areas with streams, it is more likely that Hercules club may be found growing wild near your home.
Diagnosis of Hercules Club Poisoning in Cats
The most alarming symptom of Hercules club poisoning is often gastrointestinal upset. If you are concerned about your cat's well being, bring it into a veterinary clinic. It is likely that you will be asked to provide your cat's full medical history to help rule potential existing problems. You may be asked if your cat is allowed outdoors and if you live in a rural area. It may be difficult to pinpoint a plant poisoning as the cause of the problems due to the unlikelihood of anyone witnessing the cat consuming the berries. As the leaves do not contain toxins, there may be no visible plant material in the oral cavity.
The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of the cat to try to narrow down what is causing the negative reactions in the animal. A sample of blood will be taken for tests to be run, including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile. It is likely that these tests will come back normal. This will begin to suggest that the consumption of a toxic substance has occurred. Urinalysis may also be needed to assess how the internal organs are functioning.
Treatment of Hercules Club Poisoning in Cats
Most cases of Hercules club poisoning do not require treatment as the bout of illness generally does not last long. If a severe reaction has occurred, supportive care along with symptom treatment will be administered.
Remove Stomach Contents
The vet may either remove the contents of the stomach by inducing the cat to vomit or with gastric lavage (stomach pumping). This will prevent the cat from digesting any more of the plant material.
This may be given to absorb all of the remaining toxins in the digestive tract and trap them so that they may safely pass through the cat.
If your cat has been vomiting for a lengthened period of time, it may begin to become dehydrated. If this happens, intravenous fluids may need to be administered. The cat will need to hospitalized for this process and should be kept as comfortable as possible.
Recovery of Hercules Club Poisoning in Cats
The Hercules club is only mildly toxic to cats. This means that most cats make a quick and full recovery in less than 24 hours. No lasting effects should exist from consuming this tree. As Hercules club may be found growing in the wild all over North America, the only way to prevent your cat from coming into contact with one is by keeping it indoors. This will also help protect the cat from other toxic or harmful encounters. Take some time and get comfortable with the toxic plants that grow in your area so that you can identify them in an emergency situation.