What is Lobelia Poisoning?
The lobelia is typically found in countries with tropical or Mediterranean climates. Because of its eye-catching blue flowers, lobelia has enjoyed relative popularity amongst gardeners across the world. However, pet owners should be aware that the plant contains toxins which can be harmful to humans and animals alike. Felines can be especially badly affected if they eat any part of the lobelia plant.
Symptoms of Lobelia Poisoning in Cats
It is fortunate that the symptoms of lobelia poisoning can produce very noticeable effects, as this helps alert owners to the fact that their cat requires medical attention. However, the signs of lobelia poisoning should not be taken lightly, as in sufficient quantities, the offending chemicals can prove deadly.
Vomiting: Shortly after ingesting any part of the lobelia plant, the cat will start to appear nauseous as it refuses food and isolates itself from the rest of the household. Eventually, it will start to retch and vomit. As distinct from normal regurgitation of indigestible matter, this vomiting will be protracted and continuous. One of the main dangers that vomiting poses to cats (aside from food deprivation) is the risk of dehydration. Throwing up will expel a large amount of water from the cat's body and if this liquid is allowed to remain un-replenished, this can lead to serious health problems. Because of this, it is advisable for owners to leave a quantity of water readily available for the cat to drink as needed.
Diarrhea: One of the most noticeable symptoms of lobelia poisoning occurs when the cat begins to lose control over its bowel movements. The stool itself will not usually change color, although owners may notice a small quantity of blood in the feces if a large amount of lobelia has been ingested. Much like vomiting, diarrhea presents the cat with a serious risk of dehydration occurring. This is because such a relatively small animal can lose a sizeable amount of fluid in a short space of time. Owners should be careful to monitor a pet experiencing diarrhea for signs of dehydration, as the condition will require a quick response.
Salivation: Another prominent sign that a cat has consumed lobelia is the onset of excess salivation. This can take the form of either profuse drooling or a foam around the animal's mouth. In conjunction with vomiting and diarrhea, this rapid production of saliva can contribute to dehydration, making it necessary to provide the cat with plenty of fluids to replace those that are being lost.
Arrhythmia: Lobelia poisoning can cause problems that, whilst not as visible as some other symptoms, can still prove extremely dangerous if left untreated. Heart arrhythmia is chief amongst these, with its indicators being hard to spot for the majority of owners. The most obvious sign of arrhythmia is a drastically reduced level of activity on the part of the cat. They will often prefer to avoid physical exertion and instead remain sedentary and apathetic to external stimuli. The heart rate can be manually checked by placing one's fingers on the rear of the cat's chest cavity.
Abdominal Pain: An animal that has ingested lobelia plant matter will also normally exhibit signs of abdominal pain. Cats will often shift as if in discomfort and become unwilling to be touched. In certain cases, this can even manifest as aggression if their owners attempt to pick them up due to the sensitivity of their gut.
Causes of Lobelia Poisoning in Cats
The lobelia plant contains high levels of a chemical known as 'lobeline'. Lobeline is an alkaloid that many researchers believe is produced as a means for the lobelia plant to discourage herbivorous animals from grazing on it. The mechanism by which lobeline achieves this is by impairing the function of 'preganglionic receptors' in the sympathetic nervous system. This, in combination with the irritant effect of the lobelia plant, stimulates the body to vomit and excrete the contents of the digestive tract. This interference with the nervous system also has a depressive effect on many bodily processes, the function of the heart being chief amongst them.
Diagnosis of Lobelia Poisoning in Cats
To diagnose lobelia poisoning, the vet will have to perform a series of tests. The first thing they will do when shown the cat is to carry out a physical examination of the cat's body to check for painful areas and ascertain the progress of the symptoms thus far. They may also choose to take a sample of the cat's blood for further analysis, as this can provide vital clues as to the nature and level of the toxins present in the cat's body. Owners should also be prepared to answer questions regarding the cat's recent health and behavior, as this information can be of much help when making a diagnosis.
Treatment of Lobelia Poisoning in Cats
Due to the lack of specialized drugs for treating lobeline poisoning, the vet will most likely opt for a series of simple detoxification procedures. Chief amongst these is fluid therapy, whereby liquid is intravenously administered to the cat. This will both help ward off dehydration and flush the lobeline out of the animal's body. It may also be necessary to administer activated charcoal to the cat's stomach to absorb any lobeline that may yet remain undigested.
Recovery of Lobelia Poisoning in Cats
Owners should know that the vast majority of animals that experience lobelia poisoning will make a speedy recovery, with most regaining their old health within a matter of days. However, the vet may feel it prudent to restrict their activity levels for a while, so that their energy is conserved for the recovery process. Additionally, if complications such as dehydration have been observed, the vet may wish to schedule a follow-up appointment to make sure that the cat is not suffering any after-effects.