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What is Lemon Poisoning?

Generally, a small amount of lemon is sufficient to give your cat gastrointestinal symptoms The lemon tree, as well as the fruit, contains these poisons, so your cat (and other pets) shouldn’t be given free access to it. 

Think about how your cat responds to the smell of anything citrus. It may pull back and run to another area of your home as cats find any citrusy scent offensive. All citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, limes and lemons) are toxic to cats. Consider every part of the fruit, from the seeds to the fruit and skin, to be toxic or even potentially deadly for your feline.

The substances found in lemons (Citrus limon) is toxic to your cat, even though you and your family can safely ingest lemons.  Toxic compounds in the lemon include linalool and limonene, along with psoralens. The last compound is phototoxic, meaning it can cause your cat to suffer skin burns after exposure to sunlight.

Lemon Poisoning Average Cost

From 482 quotes ranging from $200 - $400

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

After eating any part of a lemon, your cat will develop these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Potential photosensitivity
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Photosensitivity
  • Skin irritation or rash
  • Weakness
  • Cold limbs
  • Liver failure
  • Tremors
  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sudden death
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Causes of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

Three compounds in a lemon, limonene, linalool and psoralen, are toxic, if not deadly for your cat. 

Limonene is a terpene that leads to the citrus scent of lemons. D-limonene has been used in dog shampoos and fragrances. The small amount present in dog products is safe for most sizes of dogs. For cats, it can prove lethal. Limonene is also used in flavoring compounds, cosmetic products, and cleaning products. Keep all of these away from your feline.

Linalool also gives the lemon its citrusy scent. It’s used as an insecticide in soaps and as a fragrant product in lotions. Linalool is also used as an insecticide itself.

Psoralen leads to photosensitivity issues for cats. It’s used as a treatment for certain skin disorders.

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Diagnosis of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

If your cat nibbles lemon and you catch it, get it to the vet right away. Take the lemon or a part of the tree with you for testing to help your vet makes a diagnosis. 

Expect the vet to ask you several questions and give your cat a complete physical, including a urinalysis and blood work. The blood chemistry profile and complete blood count help your vet to rule out underlying conditions and determine better what toxins are affecting your cat. Your vet may also examine your cat’s stool and vomit specimens to identify the source of toxins. The potential for your cat’s symptoms to worsen increases with the amount of lemon or lemon tree your cat ate.

Your cat may also undergo neurological testing, which allows the vet to witness assess coordination and reflexes.

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Treatment of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

Once your vet knows what is causing your cat’s symptoms, she can determine the most appropriate treatment. Because the cat could breathe the essential oil of a lemon into its lungs, inducing vomiting isn’t an option. Instead, the vet will wash your cat’s stomach out (gastric lavage) to remove as much of the lemon and toxins from its digestive system. In addition, the vet will deliver activated charcoal to stop the absorption of any of the toxic compounds into its bloodstream.

If you found your cat eating a lemon, even though they find citrus scents to be so offensive, wash your cat’s fur and skin with a mild soap and clean, warm water.

Beyond that, the treatments your vet provides are supportive, including IV fluids that rehydrate your cat and adjust any electrolyte and blood glucose imbalances your cat may be experiencing. Your cat may receive supplemental oxygen and anti-seizure medications if its tremors are becoming severe.

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Recovery of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

Your cat should make a good recovery from its lemon poisoning, if you obtained quick veterinary care.  The poisoning symptoms are short-lived. Don’t take your cat’s poisoning lightly; if it eats any of the essential oils found in lemons, its prognosis may not be as good.

If your cat is an indoor-outdoor cat, keep it inside for about 48 hours after receiving treatment for phototoxicity. 

Your vet will have you bring your cat in so she can regularly monitor its blood chemistry levels. She is looking at how your cat’s liver and kidneys are functioning.

Before you bring your cat home, place all citrus products in a cabinet or inside the refrigerator. Citrus-scented products containing any of the known toxins should be kept where your cat can’t get to them. Read labels carefully when you buy cat care products or sprays meant to deter them from furniture or walls inside your home.

 

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Lemon Poisoning Average Cost

From 482 quotes ranging from $200 - $400

Average Cost

$250

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Lemon Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Milo

dog-breed-icon

Domestic long hair

dog-age-icon

12 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, Constipation

Hi there, I looked over at my 12 week old kitten the other night and noticed he took 2-3 licks out of my lemon water (just water with some lemon juice).. he’s still eating and drinking but I noticed he’s been sleeping a lot over the last 2 days and hasn’t been playing as much. He seems fine when he is playing with his other brother! I’m not too sure what to do, I also noticed though that I think he may be constipated.... heeellpppp

Aug. 31, 2018

Milo's Owner

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Joy

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short hair

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Drooling

I believe my cat consumed lemon juice when I was cooking. She has been drooling and is behaviorally acting okay. The issue is that I cannot afford to tale her to the vet because of finanical difficulties. What can I do at home to help her and what should I be looking for in the even I have to take her to the emergency animal hospital?

Aug. 25, 2018

Joy's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

A small amount of lemon juice may cause some drooling and could cause some gastrointestinal symptoms (mainly vomiting), however it is the peel which is more dangerous due to the oils; keep an eye on Joy and ensure that she is otherwise eating, drinking etc… If you have concerns or notice any symptoms on this page visit a Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 26, 2018

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Azrael

dog-breed-icon

Highlander

dog-age-icon

4 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My kitten is a Highlander. Hes 4 1/2 months and chewed some small pieces off my lemon bread I bought. I'm really worried now but hes acting fine so far. The two or three nibbles on my bread isnt enough to hurt him besides GI upset right? Hes a new kitty to our home

July 27, 2018

Azrael's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

A nibble or two from some lemon bread shouldn’t cause any issues or may be just a bit of tummy ache at the worst; you should keep an eye on Azreal for the time being and visit your Veterinarian if any concerning symptoms present. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 28, 2018

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jewel

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Maincoon

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Quiter Than Usual

Hi, I often freeze my lemon water & let it half melt then I can drink the meted liquid very cold. This afternoon at around 5pm I have just put a frozen glass of lemon water on the counter & my cat jumped up & started liking the ice. Being so hot today, I thought that cute she likes ice. I had no idea citrus is so dangerous for cats. At 8:30 pm tonight she has a very swollen upper lip & I don`t know if she got a cut or something earlier or if this a possible symptom from the lemon water. I was actually shocked at how toxic this is to cats & I don`t even know why I decided to look this up But I am glad I did. Outside of the fat lip & just wanting a little extra attention, she appears fine at this point. I am on a Very! tight budget & no extra for a vet, I am worried about the fat lip, it is a little tender but she did allow me to touch her mouth to get a better look, if it is not the lemon any idea what else it could be?

July 16, 2018

jewel's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

I'm not sure if the swelling is a reaction to the lemon water, but it is possible. Ideally, you would have Jewel seen by a veterinarian and run some baseline lab work to make sure that she is okay, but if you are not able to do that, you should keep a very close eye on her to make sure that swelling improves, and that she is eating and drinking normally and acting normal. If she is not eating, the swelling is worsening, or she is lethargic, she should be seen right away by a veterinarian. She should also stay inside for a few days, as the lemon can make her sensitive to the sun.

July 16, 2018

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Leonard

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stray

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None Yet

I made a natural any repellant with lemon,orange,peppermint,tea tree,and clove oils along with lemon juice and baking soda. I kind of have a phobia of ants so I sprayed it all around the house and it's perimeter. I sprayed a lot. I didn't know lemon or citrus could hurt my cat. I just did it 15 minutes ago. I'm just worried that he's going to get sick cause I sprayed so much. What should I do?

July 3, 2018

Leonard's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Lemon oil, clove oil and tea tree oil (from the top of my head) may cause poisoning symptoms in cats and dogs especially if they were not dilute; dilution is generally in a carrier oil or similar to make a 1% or less solution safe to use around animals, I generally recommend against oils and products containing oils unless it states on the packaging that it is safe for pets. I would mop up the spray and use an effective ant baiting station. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 4, 2018

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Lucky

dog-breed-icon

American shorthair

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

I didnt have any fish oil for pets to put on my cat's food and the vet said to open one of mine and put it on his food. I didn't realize it had "natural lemon flavor" added to it till after I did it. How toxic is nordic naturals with lemon flavor?

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3 kittens

dog-breed-icon

Orange tabby

dog-age-icon

10 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

No Energy,

Hi,I have 4 10 week old kittens,I also have a 15 year old lemon tree in the house. The kittens were always messing around by the tree,in the pot etc. I had no idea that lemon trees were poisonous to cats until an hour ago. Well,3 of them have no appetite and the 3 started limping on their front right leg. Today I noticed 1 of them started limping on the other leg also. They are very lethargic and it's like they want to eat but nothing tastes good. With the corona virus it's hard to find a vet. Would giving them milk and charcoal tablets help?

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Simba

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

8 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sleepiness

I made homemade hennna out of a few ingredients including lemon juice. I pasted small dots in a going down a finger and when it came time to go to bed my can was licking my had a bunch. I wasn't sure why until I remembered that I had henna on. I looked on google to make sure he would be fine and then I saw all the stuff about lemons being poisonous to cats. This just happened so no symptoms yet but I'm worried. There wasn't alot of lemon juice ingested mostly koolaid and flour

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Milo

dog-breed-icon

Domestic long hair

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Loss Of Appetite

Recently we bought a lemon tree to grow in the house, not realizing that lemons are toxic to cats. Today we noticed Milo was depression and not eating. Is there anything we can do at home for him? We have removed the tree from the house. What symptoms are more serious and absolutely must be dealt with by a vet? Money is an issue.

dog-name-icon

Rora

dog-breed-icon

Sphynx

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

I typically steam fish with a few slices of lemon on top for flavoring. I should avoid giving this to my cat correct? They love eating tilapia and when I’m not using lemon I give them a few bites. Is the citrus being steamed enough to be harmful?

Lemon Poisoning Average Cost

From 482 quotes ranging from $200 - $400

Average Cost

$250