What is Lavender Poisoning?
While a lavender plant itself isn’t toxic to your cat, formulations from the plant can be. Your cat can eat a lot of lavender and may suffer only an upset stomach, but on the other hand, lavender essential oil can be deadly for your pet because of its concentration. A cat’s liver lacks several specific enzymes that helps it to safely process the volatile compounds in essential oils, so these should be kept far away from your cat.
Symptoms of Lavender Poisoning in Cats
If your cat has gotten into a lavender plant and eaten a large quantity, you’ll notice the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
Lavender essential oils can easily be absorbed through your cat’s respiratory system, where it moves into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, it moves into the cat’s liver. Your cat’s skin is delicate and thin, so rubbing a “soothing” blend of lavender oil that hasn’t been diluted with a carrier oil can lead to liver problems for your cat, as well as chemical burns. Likewise, liquid potpourris contain cationic agents and essential oils. which can burn your cat’s skin and mouth. Ingestion of these oils can cause:
- Difficulty breathing
- Uncoordinated gait
- Lethargy and weakness
- Pawing at face and mouth
- Muscle tremors
- Redness and/or burns on lips, skin, gums and tongue
Causes of Lavender Poisoning in Cats
Your cat’s liver lacks several specific enzymes that allows it to break down several substances, including the components of essential oils and liquid potpourris.
The lavender plant itself contains linalyl acetate and linalool. These substances can cause gastrointestinal upset in your cat. Even a diluted massage oil can lead to a mildly upset stomach, so try to avoid letting your cat get into lavender plants or anything that has been made from lavender.
Your cat needs attention, play sessions and the chance to safely explore its environment every day. If it doesn’t get these opportunities, it will become bored and get into situations that can make it sick.
Diagnosis of Lavender Poisoning in Cats
When you realize your cat has gotten into some form of lavender, call the vet, even if it hasn’t become symptomatic. If you believe it has gotten into your potpourri or essential oils, do not make your pet vomit, as the ingredients can burn its digestive tract. Instead, put the lavender, potpourri or essential oil into a sealed plastic bag and give these to your vet for examination and testing.
Your vet will give your cat a full physical, which includes a urinalysis and blood work. These will tell the vet just how the lavender and related products are affecting your cat, so they can devise the most appropriate treatment plan. Specifically, the vet will look for signs of liver or kidney damage.
Treatment of Lavender Poisoning in Cats
Once your vet knows just how badly affected your cat is by the lavender it ingested, they will be able to order the most appropriate treatments, which include supportive IV fluids (to rehydrate your cat). If your cat has suffered chemical burns from eating potpourri or a lavender essential oil, it may not be able to eat normally. In cases like this, your vet will insert a feeding tube into your cat’s stomach so it can get nutrition this way until the burns have healed.
Your vet will also give an anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medication to your cat, along with medications that coat and protect the stomach. If your cat is in pain from its poisoning or from chemical burns, it will receive pain medications appropriate for cats, as well as antibiotics. To prevent liver damage, your vet will also give medication to it that helps to protect its liver.
Recovery of Lavender Poisoning in Cats
Your cat can recover from lavender poisoning as long it receives veterinary care as quickly as possible. It can recover from chemical burns it may have suffered after licking up an essential oil or potpourri. If you massaged an essential oil into its skin, thinking to help it relax, it will also recover from the injuries to its skin.
Before your cat comes home, remove all essential oils and potpourri products, or keep them in an area where it can’t get to them. Before you massage any essential oils into your cat’s fur, ask your vet if it is safe to do so.
If your cat ate from a lavender plant and you don’t want it to do so in the future, remove it or place it where your cat can’t get to it. Give it the chance to nibble at “cat-friendly” grasses instead.
Lavender Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I just brought in a stray kitten. She has fleas and I live in a small town and can’t get her into the vet yet. One of my friends said for the fleas I should use lavender oil (not diluted) on her collar so I put it on her collar. I looked it up and took it off within 5 minutes, I also pet her when some of it was on my hands. I immediately sprayed her with water and rubbed her with a towel but now the scent it stuck a bit. She’s been laying in my arms licking herself but not showing any concerns? What should I do?
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My cat got into my lavender oils. She is acting fine. No issues. Totally normal. Should I still have her I
looked at? She smells like lavender. Just on her head.
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