What is Indian Rubber Plant Poisoning?
The Indian rubber plant is a member of the Moraceae family and is internationally known as the Ficus benjamina, but locally known as the fig, weeping fig, rubber tree plant or fig tree. Indian rubber plant poisoning in cats is a form of plant-based toxicity caused by the ingestion of any portion of this bush-like plant, including the roots, stems, or leaves. Chewing or consuming a portion of the Indian rubber plant releases this sap, causing skin irritation to upper and lower digestive system (mouth, stomach, and intestines).
Symptoms of Indian Rubber Plant Poisoning in Cats
Indian rubber plant poisoning in cats will cause clinical signs of mild toxicity. The most common clinical sign is gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea. The feline may get sick one or more times, depending on the quantity of plant material he or she consumed. The act of vomiting and diarrhea often causes secondary symptoms of dehydration, weakness, as well as decreased appetite. The Indian rubber plant also has a sap that is known to cause dermatitis-like symptoms. Therefore, the cat’s lips and mouth may be reddened, swollen or irritated in appearance. The symptoms associated with Indian rubber plant poisoning in cats are usually short-lived, lasting only a few short hours.
Causes of Indian Rubber Plant Poisoning in Cats
Indian rubber plant poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestion of any portion of this leafy plant, including the roots, stem, and leaves. The toxic principle of the Indian rubber plant are psoralen (ficusin) and proteolytic enzyme ficin, which creates a tissue irritant in the form of sap.
Diagnosis of Indian Rubber Plant Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosing Indian rubber plant 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. 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 Indian rubber plants, as this information will aid in ruling out other possible causes. Diagnostic tests used to rule out possible underlying health conditions may include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal floatation test
- Fecal examination
Treatment of Indian Rubber Plant Poisoning in Cats
Indian rubber plant 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. As oral irritation is common, the cat’s mouth will be flushed out with distilled water. An emetic drug will likely be administered to encourage the feline to vomit and remove undigested vegetation from the cat’s upper digestive system. If your cat has not vomited, activated charcoal may be administered by the veterinarian. Activated charcoal will bind with the toxic agent and prevent the body from further absorption of the plant chemicals. If the stomach has undergone irritation from consuming the Indian rubber plant, the veterinarian may administer Kapectolin, a product that provides a thick coating to the stomach wall. To reduce the stomach acid inside the stomach and prevent high acidity from corroding the stomach’s mucosal layer, the veterinarian may administer sucralfate. Sucralfate works with the stomach acid to form a paste-like coating, acting as a barrier between the stomach contents and the stomach’s soft tissues. 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 Rubber Plant Poisoning in Cats
Without further exposure to the Indian rubber plant, your feline will 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 toxic intake, but activities should return to normal in a few hours. Always consult the veterinarian when your feline consumed an Indian rubber plant, as larger consumptions could result in a more serious end result.