What is Lime Poisoning?
Cats tend to be adverse to citrus fruit and will usually avoid them. The main danger seems to be from essential oils in the fruit such as d-Limonene which have insecticidal properties and may be used to treat fleas. Because your cat’s liver is not equipped to handle these substances, toxic symptoms can occur. In addition, a cat’s relatively small size puts them at increased risk for poisoning.
Limes are a common household fruit that contain compounds that, while beneficial to humans, are toxic to your cat. Limes (Citrus aurantifolia) contain essential oils, especially in the rind, and psoralens that can make your cat very sick and result in gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, and neurological symptoms such as depressed central nervous system functioning, photosensitivity, hypothermia, and ataxia.
Symptoms of Lime Poisoning in Cats
Cats that have been exposed to lime oil dermally may exhibit a strong citrus smell and experience dermatitis (skin irritation). Other symptoms of toxicity present due to lime being absorbed through the skin or ingestion include:
- Low blood pressure
If toxicity occurs in sufficient quantities death can occur.
Causes of Lime Poisoning in Cats
The most common cause of lime poisoning in cats is from exposure to citrus oils made from lime, usually applied on the skin. Insecticide dips, shampoos, and other products may contain d-Limonene, a natural terpene, which has insecticidal properties. If administered to cats as recommended and in the appropriate dosage, toxicity is unlikely, however, if applied in excessive amounts, multiple times and/or at more than the recommended concentrations, lime oil can absorb through the skin and result in symptoms of toxicity.
In addition, lime oil is sometimes used as a deterrent spray that pet owners use on items they want their cats to avoid and your cat may become overexposed in this way.
Diagnosis of Lime Poisoning in Cats
If your cat has experienced exposure to lime or lime products, such as lime oil sprays, dips or shampoos, followed by symptoms of illness, you should consult your veterinarian immediately. Inform your veterinarian of any exposure to lime or lime products. If possible, bring the product with you and details regarding usage and dosage that occurred. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam to determine the extent of toxicity symptoms. A strong citrus smell on the skin may be present, or other symptoms of lime poisoning may be apparent. Blood and urine tests may be conducted to ascertain overall health and organ functioning.
Treatment of Lime Poisoning in Cats
If ingestion occurred, gastric lavage may be performed and activated charcoal administered to bind with toxins and prevent absorption through the gut. Vomiting is not recommended due to the risk posed by aspiration of lime oils. If dermal exposure occurred, which is more common, your cat will be thoroughly bathed to remove lime oil residue and prevent further dermal absorption.
Supportive care for poisoning symptoms will be administered, such as the administration of intravenous fluids, keeping the patient warm, and administering appropriate medication to address any other symptoms or provide support to organ functioning.
Recovery of Lime Poisoning in Cats
Prognosis for lime poisoning is usually good, although cats are more likely to suffer extreme reactions than other animals. If lime poisoning has occurred, remove the object or substance that resulted in exposure so your cat can not be re-exposed. Your cat may require a special diet for a few days to address gastrointestinal distress if it has occurred. Due to the neurological effects of lime poisoning, rest in a stress-free environment is recommended until recovery is complete. Depending on the severity of symptoms your veterinarian may recommend follow-up to ensure complete recovery, especially where neurological symptoms occurred or if organ systems were affected.