What is Iris Poisoning?
Iris are plants that feature large, ruffled flowers on top of stiff green stalks and come in a variety of species and color variations. While many people enjoy iris in their garden or as a cut flower inside in a vase, the plant is actually poisonous to your family cat. While iris toxicity is generally mild to moderate in nature, it can cause serious discomfort and damage to your cat if left untreated. As with any poisoning, you should consult with your veterinarian if you believe your cat has ingested a toxic plant or flower.
Symptoms of Iris Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of iris poisoning in your cat will vary in severity depending on how much of the plant your cat has ingested and which portion. While generally non-life threatening, symptoms can cause your cat a great deal of discomfort. Signs your cat may be suffering from iris poisoning include:
- Abdominal Pain
- Ulcers of the mouth
- Skin irritation, also called dermatitis
Causes of Iris Poisoning in Cats
Irises are also known as flag flowers or flag plants. While innocuous to humans, irises contain the compounds known as a glycoside called iridin, irisin, or irisine. Each of these chemicals is an irritant to cats and can cause a variety of symptoms. The highest concentrations of the compounds occur in the rhizomes or root or bulb area of the plant. The leaves, flowers and stems are also toxic. Iris bulbs should be stored out of the reach of curious cats, especially kittens who are likely to chew or bite items out of natural curiosity.
Diagnosis of Iris Poisoning in Cats
Your vet will begin the diagnosis of iris poisoning in your cat with a complete physical exam. Poisoning is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms may at first appear similar to other medical conditions. You will need to provide your vet with a complete physical and medical history of your cat. Additionally, if you witnessed your cat chewing or eating a plant or if they came into contact with a plant, you should provide a sample to your vet. This will allow your vet to determine which compounds your cat may have been exposed to.
During this exam, your vet will examine your cat’s mouth for ulcers. In some cases, the vet may want to view your cat’s throat to check for additional ulceration. This may require your cat to be sedated in order for a small camera to be inserted which will give your vet a complete view of your cat’s airway and esophagus.
Treatment of Iris Poisoning in Cats
Once your cat has been diagnosed as suffering from iris poisoning, your vet will begin treatment with a variety of procedures. First, your vet will attempt to alleviate any immediate discomfort your cat has with lavage, or by washing their mouth and esophagus. This requires administering water or another harmless liquid into their mouth in an attempt to rinse away any remaining traces of iris and to halt any ulceration.
Next, your vet will induce vomiting in your cat. This is done by having your cat to swallow a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide. In this small of a dose, this will not be harmful to your cat, but will cause them to vomit anything that remains in their stomach. Your veterinary staff will monitor your cat closely after they have induced vomiting as there is a potential for choking or aspiration pneumonia from this procedure.
Finally, your vet will administer activated charcoal to your cat. Activated charcoal is highly absorptive and is not digested by your cat’s system. When administered via the mouth into the stomach, the charcoal will absorb any remaining compounds and pass safely through your cat’s system.
Recovery of Iris Poisoning in Cats
Prognosis for recovery from iris poisoning in your cat is generally good. After any case of poisoning, your cat should be monitored in your vet’s office overnight or for up to several days, or as long as serious symptoms are still present. You will need to take your cat for follow-up visits to your vet to ensure they are healing properly. If vomiting was induced, you will need to carefully watch your cat for signs they may be suffering from aspiration pneumonia. These may include fever, coughing, raspy breath and general lethargy. With proper veterinary treatment and plenty of rest and fluids, most cats will make a full recovery after a case of iris poisoning.