What is Hosta Poisoning?
Hostas pose a threat to cats due to the toxic glycoside saponins found inside the plant. The leaves, flowers and roots all contain these toxins. Saponins cause issues by actually changing the structure of cell membranes. This, in turn, causes the red blood cells to break down. Saponins also irritate the membranes of the respiratory and digestive systems. This causes a negative gastrointestinal response, and in extreme cases can hinder vital body functions.
The Hosta plantaginea of the Liliaceae plant family, sometimes called a “plantain lily” or “funkia”, is a very common garden perennial found all over North America. The plant is native to northeast Asia and is hearty through frosts and deep winters. Hostas are famous for their beautiful foliage, which ranges in shape, size and color. The leaves grow in circular clusters and may be blue, dark green or combinations of green and white. The flowers of the plant grow on long stems, are smaller in size and come in whites or light purples.
Symptoms of Hosta Poisoning in Cats
The most common symptoms that are associated with consumption of a hosta plant are related to digestive upset. Other symptoms may develop in severe incidents. All signs to watch for include:
- Cardiac abnormalities (if large amounts of plant material have been ingested)
Causes of Hosta Poisoning in Cats
Hostas can be found in many gardens all over the United States. Any cat who is allowed outdoors may come into contact with hosta plants. Most cats will not attempt to eat the plant, however, cats with curious personalities or kittens may be more likely to sample the leaves. A large amount needs to be eaten for a severe toxic effect to occur.
Diagnosis of Hosta Poisoning in Cats
If you witnessed you cat eating a Hosta, or if plant material is visible in its mouth, poisoning should be suspected. If no signs of plant ingestion have been noticed, diagnosing the illness may take more time. You may be asked to provide your cat's full medical history to assist in discovering the underlying cause of gastrointestinal upset. You may also be asked if you allow your cat to roam outdoors.
The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination of the cat to look for any abnormalities that would suggest underlying health issues. A blood sample will be taken for testing to determine the overall health of the cat. These tests generally include a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to measure all levels of cells and minerals in the bloodstream. Urinalysis will also be completed to assess how the internal organs are functioning.
Treatment of Hosta Poisoning in Cats
There is no specific treatment for hosta ingestion. Symptoms will be addressed as they show and in some instances, very little treatment may be required.
Remove Plant Material
This will include flushing the oral cavity with water to remove all of the leaf bits remaining. Vomiting may also be induced by administering hydrogen peroxide. If the cat is unconscious, a gastric lavage (stomach pumping) may be performed.
This can be given to the cat to absorb all remaining toxins within the digestive system and bind them together to allow safe exit from the body.
Recovery of Hosta Poisoning in Cats
Fatalities from hosta poisoning among cats are basically unheard of. Most cats will go on to make a full recovery after the initial illness has passed. Elderly cats or cats with pre-existing health problems may be more at risk than healthy cats.
Using natural cat repellents around your garden beds can help protect cats from consuming toxic plants. Lime juice, vinegar or chili powder can be useful in deterring cats. Keeping your cat indoors is the only way to fully protect it from eating hostas and other poisonous outdoor plants. Becoming familiar with plants in your area that contain toxins can be helpful in preventing a poisoning from happening.