What is Lily Plant Poisoning?
Ingesting lilies causes renal (kidney) failure in cats. The kidneys may begin to shut down as soon as six hours after the plant is consumed. Eating a portion smaller than one leaf may be enough to cause significant kidney damage. Kittens are especially vulnerable due to both their small size and their heightened curiosity. If left untreated, a cat poisoned by lilies will be dead within three to six days. If you suspect your cat has eaten a lily, immediate veterinary attention is required to save the cat’s life.
Lilies are plants that are very common in both gardens and floral arrangements across North America. The plant generally has a large trumpet flower that comes in a large array of colors. True lilies are from Lilium and Hemerocallis genuses. The entire plant including leaves, flowers, pollen and stem is extremely poisonous to cats. Even if pollen rubs off onto the fur of a cat, the cat may be fatally poisoned by grooming itself.
Symptoms of Lily Plant Poisoning in Cats
Within two hours of plant ingestion, your cat may begin to exhibit symptoms. Most symptoms develop from the kidney failure itself. It is imperative that your cat receives treatment as soon as symptoms start to manifest. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Aversion to food
- Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
- Anuria (infrequent urination)
- Pain or distention in the abdomen
- Racing heart beat
Causes of Lily Plant Poisoning in Cats
The exact chemical or toxin in the lily that affects cats so negatively is unknown. Studies suggest that the way a cat metabolizes food may contribute to the problem. What is known is that every part of the lily plant is lethal when ingested by a cat. The toxin within the lily is water soluble and causes renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) to die. These cells are responsible for causing or controlling kidney inflammation.
Diagnosis of Lily Plant Poisoning in Cats
If your cat has ingested any part of a lily plant, locate the nearest veterinary clinic or animal hospital and rush your cat to it as soon as possible. Once you arrive, the veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of the cat. The vet will feel for the presence of enlarged or swollen kidneys. You will be asked about any possible interaction your cat may have had with lily plants. If you witnessed your cat eating a plant before symptoms appeared, but are unsure if the plant was a lily, bring the plant, or a sample of it, with you for the vet to confirm.
To identify sudden kidney failure by lily ingestion, various tests will be needed. Blood work including a biochemical profile can show increases in blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, phosphorus and potassium, all which point to lily plant poisoning. Urinalysis can establish if casts, glucose, or protein is present, and if the urine is diluted. An ultrasound may be performed to show enlarged kidneys and to see how much damage has already been done. A fine needle aspiration biopsy of the kidney may also be taken for further testing.
Treatment of Lily Plant Poisoning in Cats
There is no known antidote for lily poisoning. Treatment effectiveness has to do with time passed since ingestion and the amount of kidney damage that has occurred. Starting treatment within six hours provides the best possible prognosis. If over 18 hours has passed since ingestion, there may be no way to save the cat.
When ingested into the stomach and digestive tract, activated charcoal can help reduce the amount of toxins that are absorbed into the body.
Certain medications may be administered to promote the expelling of plant material and toxins by vomiting. This is most effective when done soon after ingestion has taken place.
Fluid may be supplemented intravenously to help the cat recover from dehydration. Dilution can also help slow down the absorption of toxins into the bloodstream. Blood work will need to be routinely performed throughout the intravenous administration. This is done in the hospital over several days.
A small number of veterinary centers may offer dialysis to help clean the blood while the kidneys recover. A machine does the job of the kidneys, removing waste and toxins from the bloodstream. This allows the cat to survive long enough for the kidneys to heal to the point where they can begin to start purifying the blood. The process is extremely expensive and does not guarantee the survival of the cat.
Recovery of Lily Plant Poisoning in Cats
If lily consumption is noticed and treated quickly, the cat will likely survive. If even one day goes by without treatment, the outcome becomes very dire, with most cats dying of kidney failure within days. Many people are unaware of how deadly these common plants can be to a cat. Share this knowledge with other cat owners to prevent an event of lily poisoning from happening.
Keep lilies out of your garden if you allow your cat outdoors. As you cannot control your neighbors’ gardens, it may be wise to keep your cat indoors. Remove lilies from floral arrangements that enter the home and keep the phone number of an animal poison control center in an accessible location.