What is Inkberry Poisoning?
The inkberry is a member of the Aquifoliacea family and is known to the world by its scientific name; Ilex glabra. Inkberry is found in temperate to subtropical areas of the world and shares the same family genus as evergreens, shrubs, and trees. Inkberry is commonly called Christmas holly due to its bright red colored berries and dark green colored, spiny leaves. Additional names given to inkberry include; American Holly, Winterberry, Inkberry, Organ Holly, European Holly and English Holly.
Inkberry poisoning in cats results from the ingestion of the yuletide plant. This holly contains potentially lethal substances in its spiny leaves including cyanogens, methylxanthines and saponins. Upon ingestion, these substances cause a great deal of gastrointestinal upset characterized by vomiting and diarrhea. A cat owner can identify an inkberry poisoning through clinical signs the feline will display including; excessive head shaking, drooling and lip smacking. No documentation has been made of inkberry holly poisoning being fatal to felines, but the damage caused to the gastrointestinal system poses great threat to the feline’s health.
Symptoms of Inkberry Poisoning in Cats
The initial symptoms a feline will display after consuming inkberry are related to mucosal discomfort from the plant’s spiny leaves. The feline may begin to shake her/his head vigorously, drool excessively and repeatedly smack her/his lips together. As the plant makes its way down the esophagus and into the lower digestive tract, the feline experiences further discomfort as the plant material is passed through defecation. Secondary symptoms of Inkberry poisoning in cats are listed below:
- Caffeine-like stimulatory effects
- Abdominal pain
- Head shaking
- Lip smacking
- Excessive drooling
Causes of Inkberry Poisoning in Cats
Inkberry poisoning in cats is caused by the direct ingestion of the leaves or berries of this Aquifoliacea plant. The leaves and berries of the inkberry contain potentially toxic substances of cyanogens, methylxanthines, saponins. Although the leaves and berries contain a low toxicity level, the effects that plant has on a feline can be hazardous to her or his health.
Diagnosis of Inkberry Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosing inkberry poisoning in cats is most easily accomplished if the cat was witnessed consuming the plant material. There is no specific test available for identifying inkberry poisoning, so your veterinarian’s diagnosis will be based on ruling out other possible causes of your feline’s current symptoms if there is no clear indication of potential plant 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 inkberry plants. The clinical signs that inkberry poisoning in cats causes usually pinpoints an inkberry poisoning, but the veterinarian will want to conduct a series of diagnostic tests to ensure your cat is truly suffering from this 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)
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal examination
Treatment of Inkberry Poisoning in Cats
Although there is no known antidote to counteract an inkberry poisoning, immediate veterinary care can ensure a positive recovery. The key in treating an inkberry poisoning in cats is removing the ingested plant from the cat’s gastrointestinal system. Medication to encourage the cat to vomit is likely to be prescribed, such as hydrogen peroxide. The veterinarian may also prescribe a drug to encourage the feline to pass the toxic plant through the stool. If the veterinarian feels the toxin has entered the cat’s bloodstream and needs to be flushed through the urine, intravenous fluids will be started upon clinical arrival. If your cat has continuously vomited or has experienced severe diarrhea, fluids may also be administered to restore the feline’s level of hydration. As the spines of the inkberry’s leaves can cause esophageal irritation, Kapectolin may also be administered to coat the inside of the throat and stomach.
Recovery of Inkberry Poisoning in Cats
Felines generally make a full recovery from an inkberry poisoning in 24 hours. However, if your cat has not received any veterinary attention, it will take much longer for the feline to recover. Inkberry contains a low amount of toxic chemicals and almost all cats make a full recovery. Cases of large ingestions of the inkberry plant, or ingestion by very young or very old felines may have a less than positive prognosis.