What is Indian Apple Poisoning?
The Indian apple plant contains a glycoside toxin known as podophyllotoxin. This toxin is quickly and easily absorbed through the body’s tissues, therefore, can cause immediate clinical signs of toxicity in pets. Cats, like dogs and horses, are often poisoned by the Indian apple after chewing or eating any part of this leafy plant. The Indian apple plant commonly causes symptoms of dermal irritation upon contact and gastrointestinal upset upon ingestion.
The Indian apple plant is a member if the Berberidaceae family and is known throughout the world by its scientific name, Podophyllum peltatum. The Indian Apple plant has also been commonly called the American mandrake, the raccoonberry, duck’s foot, hog apple, wild lemon, the umbrella leaf, Indian apple root and the mayapple. The Indian apple plant grows in large patches, covering the entire ground area. The plant itself can be identified by its tall stems and broad, green leaves that mimic the appearance of an umbrella.
Symptoms of Indian Apple Poisoning in Cats
The Indian apple plant can cause both gastrointestinal and dermal irritation to a feline upon ingestion, or direct contact with the plant. Gastrointestinal upset may result in drooling, diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy. Dermal irritation caused by the Indian apple plant may result in skin ulcers and redness of the skin. The feline may develop dermal irritations on the mouth, face, ears and hairless portions of the body, as these areas of the skin are not protected by the cat’s fur.
Causes of Indian Apple Poisoning in Cats
Indian apple poisoning in cats is caused by ingesting or coming into contact with any portion of the leafy plant. The Indian apple plant contains a glycoside toxin known as podophyllotoxin, which is easily absorbed through the body’s tissues.
Diagnosis of Indian Apple Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosing Indian apple poisoning in cats is difficult as there is no specific test available for identifying this type of toxicity. Your veterinarian’s diagnosis will be based on ruling out other possible causes of your feline’s current condition that could cause similar symptoms that mimic an Indian Apple poisoning. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, review of the feline’s medical history and a consultation with the pet owner. It will be important for you to inform the veterinarian about your feline’s recent actions and exposure to the Indian apple, as this information will aid in ruling out other possible causes. The clinical signs that Indian Apple poisoning causes in cat, such as gastrointestinal upset, are similar to other feline health conditions. The veterinarian will want to conduct a series of diagnostic tests to ensure your cat is truly suffering from an Indian apple toxicity and not a more severe underlying condition. Diagnostic tests the veterinarian will likely request to be performed on the feline include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal analysis
- Skin tests
Treatment of Indian Apple Poisoning in Cats
Indian apple poisoning in cats is treated by removing the plant from the feline to prevent further ingestion and eliminating the toxins from the cat’s body. An emetic drug will likely be administered to encourage the feline to vomit and remove undigested plant vegetation from the cat’s upper digestive system. A gastric lavage may be necessary to manually remove the plant material from the stomach that has not yet been broken down and passed through the digestive tract. Activated charcoal may be administered to bind with the toxic agent in the digestive tract and prevent the body from further absorption of the plant chemicals. As the toxic components of the Indian apple are easily absorbed through the tissues, skin irritation and ulcers are common. A skin cream or oral anti-inflammatory drug may be necessary to counteract the toxic effects to the skin. The feline’s treatment may end with intravenous fluids to restore his or her hydration, as vomiting and diarrhea will cause the cat’s fluid levels to drop.
Recovery of Indian Apple Poisoning in Cats
Without further exposure to the Indian apple, your feline should be able to make a full recovery in a few short hours. Your veterinarian will likely ask you to encourage the feline to consume a larger amount of water than usual to further eliminate the toxin from the body for the day of toxin intake, but activities should return to normal in a few hours. Always consult the veterinarian when your feline consumed an Indian apple plant, as larger consumptions could result in a more serious end result.