What is Lemongrass Poisoning?
Cats normally moderate the amounts of food they eat or nibble, but some cats may not be as able to moderate how much grass, including lemongrass, they ingest. This may lead to a mild GI upset. If your cat has eaten a large amount of this grass, it is at high risk of developing an intestinal blockage. Because of how attractive this grass is to cats, you may need to restrict its access.
Three kinds of lemongrass include Cymbopogon citratus, which is the form used in Thai and Asian cooking. Cymbopogon winterianus is a close cousin to Ceylon citronella, which is used to repel insects. Cymbopogon nardus, called citronella grass, looks like lemongrass except for its maroon stems. This plant is the source of citronella oil and is mildly toxic to your cat.
Lemongrass, also called oil grass, comes from the Poaceae family. This plant is used widely in Thai foods, and while it isn’t toxic to humans, it can harm dogs, cats and other wildlife. If your cat nibbles some baked goods containing lemongrass, it should be just fine as long as it ate only a small amount.
Symptoms of Lemongrass Poisoning in Cats
After your cat has eaten lemongrass, especially in larger amounts, you’ll notice the following symptoms:
- Mild gastrointestinal upset
- Abdominal pain
- Distended abdomen (swollen abdomen)
- Loss of appetite
- Strains during defection
After eating larger amounts:
- Chronic cystitis
- Hind leg weakness
- Urine leakage
- Inability to eliminate body wastes
Concentrated lemongrass essence, in the form of an essential oil, may prove harmful for your cat. It doesn’t have the necessary liver enzymes to break down the compounds in this essential oil.
If your cat expressing an intensive craving for lemongrass, it may have some kind of nutritional deficiency or illness.
Causes of Lemongrass Poisoning in Cats
In its live form, lemongrass isn’t harmful to cats, as long as they nibble in moderation. When made into an essential oil, lemongrass is potentially deadly for your cat. All cats lack glucuronyl transferase, a liver enzyme, that helps to break down most essential oils, including lemongrass.
Diagnosis of Lemongrass Poisoning in Cats
Your vet will follow the trail of your cat’s symptoms in diagnosing lemongrass poisoning. Along with a full physical, he will order blood work, a biochemistry profile, complete blood count and a urinalysis. Through these tests, the vet will see if he can detect any toxins in your cat’s blood.
Because lemongrass is so attractive to your cat, it may eat too much, putting it at risk of developing an intestinal blockage. Once you tell him what you cat has been eating, he’ll request X-rays and an ultrasound. This may include a barium study, which will allow the blockage to be spotted much more easily.
Once the vet is sure what is wrong with your cat, he will continue testing to look for pesticide toxicity, just to be sure.
Treatment of Lemongrass Poisoning in Cats
Your vet will provide treatments that help your cat return to health. These treatments may include an IV, especially if your cat is experiencing distress.
If it has developed an intestinal blockage because of the amount of lemongrass it ate, the vet will physically flush the mass of leaves through your cat’s intestinal system.
If your cat’s blockage is particularly severe, the vet may opt for surgery to remove the mass. While still under anesthesia, the vet will also repair any damage caused by the lemongrass your cat ate.
In cases of poisoning through essential oil, your vet will run tests on your cat’s liver function. This will need to be watched very closely to make sure liver damage isn’t beginning. To make this less likely to happen, your vet will make your cat vomit, wash out your cat’s stomach and use activated charcoal to absorb any toxin remaining in your cat’s body.
Recovery of Lemongrass Poisoning in Cats
Your cat should recover from its bout of lemongrass poisoning. This plant is only mildly toxic and your cat may love nibbling from its leaves.
While your cat is restricted to the indoors of your house, make sure any other opportunities to eat lemongrass can’t take place. Remove all lemongrass from your home. Instead, grow cat-friendly grasses indoors and out. Give your cat watchful freedom to chew on these grasses rather than lemongrass.
If your cat didn’t have an overwhelming need to eat lemongrass or other dangerous substances before, but it does now, take it to the vet for a full examination. From vitamin deficiencies to circulatory issues and even brain lesions, your cat should be examined closely and tested. Once the appropriate treatment has been given for one of these conditions, it should resume eating a more normal diet. Watch its behavior and monitor the environment your cat is in. If you notice it inching toward lemongrass again, give it the opportunity to chew at a small amount, then move it to a different area.