What is Lace Fern Poisoning?
Lace ferns contain sapogenins, which cause irritation to a cat’s skin and gastrointestinal tract upon contact or ingestion. If your cat is exposed to a lace fern plant, you may begin to notice symptoms including skin irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. The effect this plant has on your cat will depend on the amount consumed, and your cat’s age and current condition.
This type of poisoning is rarely fatal, but it’s still serious. If you believe your cat has come into contact with lace fern, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. A vet can help alleviate the discomfort associated with lace fern poisoning and ensure all toxins have been removed from your cat’s body.
Lace fern, which is also known as emerald feather, emerald fern, asparagus fern, and shatavari, is a common houseplant with delicate, feather-like leaves. It is also used as a filler plant in floral arrangements. However, this plant can be toxic to cats, so it’s important to keep it out of your home if you are a cat owner.
Symptoms of Lace Fern Poisoning in Cats
The symptoms of lace fern poisoning that your cat exhibits will depend on what kind of contact he made with the plant, meaning whether his skin was exposed to it or whether he ate part of it. Some of the symptoms you may observe include:
- Skin irritation
- Abdominal pain
Causes of Lace Fern Poisoning in Cats
Lace fern poisoning occurs when your cat’s skin comes into contact with a lace fern plant or he ingests the berries of the plant. The berries contain sapogenins, which are toxic to cats and can immediately cause irritation and gastrointestinal upset.
Diagnosis of Lace Fern Poisoning in Cats
If you notice your cat making contact with a lace fern plant, or if you begin to observe some of the symptoms of lace fern poisoning, take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If possible, try to take a sample or photograph of the plant with you so the vet can easily identify what is causing your cat’s symptoms. Or, you could collect a sample of your cat’s vomit, which could contain plant matter. Discuss the symptoms you have observed with your vet, when they first began, and whether your cat is exposed to any unusual plants in your home or outside.
There is not a test to diagnose lace fern poisoning, so the vet will rely heavily on the information you provide in order to make a diagnosis. He may perform a physical examination that includes looking at any skin irritation and running complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, and urinalysis tests. He may also use an endoscope to look at the contents of your cat’s stomach. If there is plant matter in your cat’s stomach, this will help the vet make a diagnosis.
Treatment of Lace Fern Poisoning in Cats
The treatment your cat receives will depend on the symptoms. If your cat is only suffering from skin irritation as a result of the poisoning, the vet may administer a topical corticosteroid to relieve the swelling and itching.
If your cat has ingested the lace fern plant, treatment will be different. The vet may need to induce vomiting using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution that is administered to your cat orally. After the vet is confident all of the lace fern plant has been removed from your cat’s stomach, he will most likely administer activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxins before they enter your cat’s bloodstream. A gastric lavage, which is a stomach wash, can also be performed to flush out the stomach cavity. To prevent further irritation and vomiting, the vet can administer either Kaopectin or sucralfate, which form a thick paste that coats the lining of the stomach.
If your cat has become dehydrated as a result of the vomiting, the vet can administer fluids intravenously to help him regain his strength before you take him back home.
Recovery of Lace Fern Poisoning in Cats
Most cats will begin to recover from lace fern poisoning with 24 hours. If your cat’s condition worsens after treatment, contact a veterinarian right away.
Your vet may prescribe a corticosteroid that you will need to apply topically or administer orally to your cat to help with the skin irritation. Vets may also tell you to switch your cat to softer foods that will not be as harsh on the cat’s stomach for the next few days. This is done to give your cat’s body time to recover following induced vomiting and a gastric lavage.
Remove the lace fern plant from your home or yard. If you believe your cat came into contact with it in someone else’s yard, it’s best to keep your cat indoors as much as possible to prevent further contact.