What is Laurel Poisoning?
If your cat consumes any amount of the laurel plant, he may begin to exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, drooling, and weakness. You will need to act quickly once you spot these symptoms and take your cat to a veterinarian right away. The longer you wait to get treatment, the less chance your cat has of recovering from this type of poisoning.
The laurel, which also goes by the names mountain laurel, ivy bush, calico bush, mountain ivy, and spoonwood, is a plant often found in pastures and open areas. These plants contain highly dangerous toxins known as grayanotoxins, which affect the sodium channels and eventually lead to heart problems and death. It has been given the nickname “sheepkill” because of its ability to kill sheep that accidentally graze on it in an open pasture.
Symptoms of Laurel Poisoning in Cats
Consuming even a small amount of the laurel plant can lead to serious problems for cats. The exact symptoms your cat exhibits will vary, however, some of the most common signs of laurel poisoning include:
- Excessive salivation
- Drop in blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Death (if left untreated)
Causes of Laurel Poisoning in Cats
Laurel poisoning is caused by consumption of the laurel plant, which contains grayanotoxins. These toxins can impact the sodium channels in your cat’s body, which in turn affect the heart and skeletal system. Every part of the laurel plant contains these toxins, so cats are at risk of developing serious health conditions if they consume even a small amount of the laurel.
Diagnosis of Laurel Poisoning in Cats
If you notice your cat consuming the laurel plant, or if you observe any of the symptoms of laurel poisoning, bring him into a veterinarian as soon as possible. It’s helpful if you bring a sample or photo of the plant or of the vomit if it contains plant material. This will help the vet quickly make a diagnosis of your cat’s condition so he can immediately begin treatment. Give a thorough description of the symptoms you have observed to the vet, and let him know whether your cat has been exposed to any unusual plants outside.
There is no test that can be run to diagnose laurel poisoning, so you will need to give the vet as much information as possible about what you have observed. The vet can also perform a physical examination, including running complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, and urinalysis tests. He may also use an endoscope to examine the contents of your cat’s stomach and look for any plant material that could help him reach a diagnosis.
Treatment of Laurel Poisoning in Cats
Once the vet has determined your cat has laurel poisoning, treatment will begin immediately. The vet will orally administer a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to induce vomiting and remove any of the laurel plant that remains in your cat’s stomach. After the vomiting has stopped, the vet can administer activated charcoal to absorb toxins that have not been absorbed into the bloodstream yet. Depending on the amount of the plant material that was consumed, the vet may need to administer activated charcoal repeatedly over the next several hours. The vet can also perform a gastric lavage, which is a procedure that washes the stomach cavity to remove any toxins that remain on the stomach’s lining.
Because the toxins found in laurel plants affect the sodium channels in your cat’s body, the vet may also need to administer quinidine or isoproterenol, which are sodium channel blockers.
Your cat may become dehydrated during treatment because of the induced vomiting. If this is the case, the vet will need to provide him with fluids using an IV. If the poisoning has caused your cat to have difficulty breathing, the vet can also provide respiratory support until his condition stabilizes.
Recovery of Laurel Poisoning in Cats
The faster you bring your cat into a veterinarian for medical treatment following ingestion of the laurel plant, the better his chances are of making a full recovery. If you wait too long, laurel poisoning can be fatal.
Your cat may need to stay with the vet until his condition has stabilized. Once he has returned home with you, keep him calm and comfortable while his body recovers from the traumatic experience. Talk to your vet about whether you should modify his diet to softer foods that will not upset his stomach immediately following treatment.
Closely monitor your cat while he recovers. If you notice the symptoms are returning, for example if your cat has another seizure, call a veterinarian right away.
Remove all laurel plants from your home and garden. However, if you think your cat came into contact with a laurel plant in someone else’s yard, consider keeping your cat indoors to prevent further exposure.