What is Lily Poisoning?
Lilies may seem like beautiful, fragrant and harmless plants to humans, but when it comes to your family pets they can be extremely poisonous and potentially fatal. Lily poisoning occurs when your cat consumes any part of the lily plant, including flowers, stems, pollen, leaves or the bulb if the plant is left out of ground and exposed. Kittens are particularly prone to lily poisoning given their curious nature and willingness to chew on plants as part of exploring their environments. If you believe your cat is suffering from lily poisoning, or has ingested a lily or lily plant, you should seek immediate veterinary care.
Symptoms of Lily Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of lily poisoning will typically develop quickly, within six to twelve hours after your cat has been exposed. Signs to watch for mat include:
- Loss of appetite
- Kidney failure
- Inability to walk
Causes of Lily Poisoning in Cats
The exact toxin within lilies that causes poisoning in your cat is unknown. Poisoning occurs when your cat ingests the plant, either through curiosity or the desire to chew or eat the plant. Indoor and outdoor cats are both susceptible as lilies are common household flowers and are particularly popular decorations come spring. Varieties such as peace lilies, Peruvian lilies or calla lilies are of a different species than true lilies. While these plants are still harmful to your cat, they do not generally create life-threatening symptoms. Lilies of the genus Lilium or Hemerocallis are considered true lilies and are potentially fatal if your cat does not obtain immediate veterinary care after exposure. Types of true lilies include:
- Tiger lilies
- Day lilies
- Asiatic hybrid lilies
- Japanese show lilies
- Easter lilies
- Rubrum lilies
- Stargazer lilies
- Red lilies
- Western lilies
- Wood lilies
Diagnosis of Lily Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosis of lily poisoning in your cat will begin with a thorough physical exam in your veterinarian’s office. Since it will be difficult for your vet to ascertain the exact type of poisoning from your cat’s symptoms at this time alone, you should be prepared to describe in detail the approximate onset of symptoms as well as any worsening or improvement of the condition. If you witnessed your cat ingesting or coming into contact with a specific plant, you should carefully bring a small portion of that plant with you to the vet visit so that your vet can more accurately and quickly make a diagnosis.
Suspected poisoning of any kind in your cat is a serious medical condition and your vet may need to diagnose your cat to begin treatment prior to having complete confirmation of the condition. Your vet may still obtain a blood and urine sample during your vet visit. These will be sent to the laboratory for analysis to test for kidney function and the presence of any infections or secondary conditions.
Treatment of Lily Poisoning in Cats
Treatment of lily poisoning in your cat will begin by your vet team stabilizing your pet if they are suffering from any life threatening symptoms. Your cat will be administered medications via IV to help reduce seizures and medications and fluids to help promote kidney function. Your cat may be very sick after lily poisoning and will need to be admitted for overnight stay and observation at a minimum.
After your cat is no longer in critical condition, your vet’s staff will work quickly to help eliminate any remaining toxic substances that remain in their stomach. To do this, your vet will induce vomiting in your cat. A thin plastic tube will be placed into your cat’s mouth and down their throat directly into their stomach. This will be uncomfortable but is important to administer life saving treatment. A solution of water with a small amount of hydrogen peroxide may be given, which will induce vomiting in your cat. This procedure should never be performed at home without veterinarian instruction as vomiting may cause a variety of life threatening side effects.
Next, your vet may administer activated charcoal to your cat via the same tube method. Activated charcoal will absorb many toxic substances allowing them to pass harmlessly through your cat’s digestive system. Additional fluids will then be administered and your cat will be closely monitored to ensure healthy vital signs and proper organ function.
Recovery of Lily Poisoning in Cats
In cases of lily poisoning that are caught early, your cat has a good prognosis of recovery. Some animals may have long or short-term organ damage as a result of poisoning. These conditions may be managed with the use of special medications and regular blood tests at your vet’s office. Unfortunately, lilies are incredibly toxic and some severe cases may result in death. Lily poisoning is a serious condition and your cat’s long-term recovery will depend on how quickly they receive veterinary care.