What is Indian Pink Poisoning?
The Indian pink is a member of the Campanulaceae family and is internationally known as the Lobelia cardinalis, but locally known as the cardinal flower or lobelia. The Indian Pink can be found throughout the Americas and is well known for its beautiful, bright scarlet red colored flowers. The stem of the Indian pink plant grows straight upward from the ground, reaching heights of two to four feet tall. The Indian pink is most attractive to felines during the summer to fall months when the flowers bloom.
Indian pink poisoning in cats is a form of plant based toxicity caused by the ingestion of any portion of this perennial wildflower including the roots, pollen, stem, leaves and petals. The toxins found within the Indian pink have potential atropinic activities and depressive effect to the central nervous system, blocking nerve receptors throughout the body. The prognosis for a feline that has consumed a portion of the Indian pink plant is generally good before clinical signs present themselves. Clinical signs such as abdominal pain, excessive salivation, vomiting and diarrhea, are indications that the feline has consumed a lethal quantity of the Indian pink plant, altering the odds of a positive outcome.
Symptoms of Indian Pink Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of Indian pink poisoning are somewhat delayed as clinical signs will present themselves approximately one to two days after the feline ingests the plant. The toxic components of the Indian pink slowly spread throughout the body, affecting the feline’s central nervous system. Symptoms that may indicate a feline Indian pink intoxication are listed below:
- Nasal discharge
- Neck extension
- Drooping ears
- Pupillary dilation
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Partial or complete paralysis
- Cardiac arrest
Causes of Indian Pink Poisoning in Cats
Indian pink poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestion of any portion of this perennial wildflower including; the roots, pollen, steam, leaves and petals. The toxic principle of the Indian pink is a pyridine alkaloid known as lobeline, which acts much like Nicotiana tabacum (cultivated tobacco) poisoning. The Indian pink holds its highest level of toxicity during the summer to fall months, when the bright, fire truck red colored flowers bloom and lobeline levels rise.
Diagnosis of Indian Pink Poisoning in Cats
The symptoms caused by Indian pink poisoning can mimic other feline health conditions. Actually seeing your cat consume the Indian pink plant is generally the only way to pinpoint a case of poisoning, so make sure to inform your veterinarian if the feline has consumed part of this plant or if the cat has access to the plant. The diagnostic process will include a physical examination and a review of the feline’s medical history, when cardiovascular changes will be noted. As cardiovascular and neurological irregularities could be linked to a variety of underlying causes, your veterinarian will want to conduct a differential diagnosis to eliminate other possibilities. Diagnostic tests the veterinarian will likely request include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Chest radiograph
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal floatation test
- Fecal examination
Treatment of Indian Pink Poisoning in Cats
Indian pink poisoning in cats is treated by removing the plant from the feline to prevent further ingestion and eliminate the toxins from the cat’s body. To eliminate the undigested toxin from the cat’s stomach, an emetic drug will be administered to encourage the feline to vomit. If your cat has not vomited, activated charcoal will likely be administered by the veterinarian. Activated charcoal will bind with the toxic agent and prevent the body from further absorption of the plant chemicals. 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 significantly.
Recovery of Indian Pink Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis is considered good for a feline that has consumed a small quantity of the Indian pink plant-- if the consumption of the plant was witnessed and immediate medical care received. Unfortunately, the majority of plant-associated toxicities are not witnessed and a problem is only recognized when clinical signs present themselves. As a result, necrosis is soon to follow the clinical signs of Indian pink poisoning and the feline may not receive medical treatment in time to prevent fatality.