What is Marjoram Poisoning?
Marjoram is a species of herbal shrub native to the Middle East, but which has long since been transported to a variety of locales across the globe for growth not just as an ornamental plant, but as a food seasoning and medicinal herb. However, as useful as marjoram is to humans, the toxins contained within it can prove dangerous to many animals, including cats.
Symptoms of Marjoram Poisoning in Cats
The symptoms of marjoram poisoning are not usually life threatening, although they do present the subject animal with a risk of complications due to loss of water from the body. Fortunately, the signs that a cat is suffering from marjoram poisoning are quite visible, allowing owners to detect the problem and seek assistance when needed.
Vomiting: A little while after ingesting plant matter from the marjoram herb, the cat will begin to appear nauseous. This can be seen as the creature starts to refuse food, isolate itself from other animals and even appear aggressive if persistently disturbed. After several hours, this will progress to the point that the cat begins to gag, retch and finally start to throw up. As distinct from regular food poisoning, this vomiting will persist for quite some time and can pose a risk to the cat's health in the form of dehydration. This is because vomiting rapidly expels large quantities of water from the body that need to be replaced in order to maintain the cat's health.
Diarrhea: Marjoram poisoning will also cause the cat to start defecating involuntarily as its body attempts to void the contents of its digestive tract. Diarrhea can also be induced by the essential oils that are present in large quantities in the marjoram plant. It is important for owners to note that diarrhea can cause the cat to expel just as much fluid from its system as vomiting. This means that when the two are combined, there is a significant risk that the cat will develop dehydration. For this reason, owners should be sensitive to the need to make as much drinking water available to the cat as possible in order to replace any lost fluids.
Salivation: A cat that has ingested marjoram plant material will often experience significant irritation of the tissues of the mouth. Because of this irritation, the cat will begin to produce excessive amounts of saliva in an attempt to wash the offending chemicals out of its mouth. This can manifest as either drooling or as a foam around the lips and nostrils. Needless to say, this salivation will cause the cat to lose a considerable amount of fluid, further worsening the risk of dehydration. Additionally, owners may notice a small amount of redness or swelling of the facial tissues that can indicate that their cat has encountered an irritant substance.
Causes of Marjoram Poisoning in Cats
The marjoram plant has large quantities of essential oils and other irritants present in its tissues. Whilst humans often use essential oils for medicinal purposes, these chemicals often have a negative impact when they come into contact with cats, with the effects ranging from mild irritation to potentially lethal depending on the oil in question. Fortunately, the oils found in marjoram are mainly just irritants, causing mild inflammation of the mouth and digestive tract, and thereby provoking the salivation detailed above. However, essential oils also have an effect on nerve receptors, and it is this effect that can in some cases cause especially violent vomiting and diarrhea.
Diagnosis of Marjoram Poisoning in Cats
Once the cat has been brought into the clinic, the vet will perform a physical examination of the animal in order to verify their symptoms and identify anything that may have previously gone unnoticed. They will also want to consult with the owner in order to ascertain the exact circumstances surrounding the poisoning, work out the chronology of the appearance and progression of the symptoms and get an idea of the cat's medical history. For this reason, it is advisable for owners to have information prepared prior to the appointment. The vet may also wish to take a blood sample from the cat in order to find out exactly which toxins are responsible for its condition and thereby rule out other causes.
Treatment of Marjoram Poisoning in Cats
Marjoram poisoning, whilst uncomfortable, is not as dangerous as poisonings by many other plants that contain essential oils. For this reason, most vets will refrain from pumping out the remaining contents of the cat's stomach, instead opting to use activated charcoal in order to absorb any undigested traces of the toxins. Secondly, due to the amount of liquid the cat will have lost, they will usually start the animal on a course of fluid therapy. This will get more water directly into the cat's body, as well as flushing out the oils and irritants that may have been metabolized and simultaneously preventing the effects of dehydration from taking hold.
Recovery of Marjoram Poisoning in Cats
Most cats will make a full recovery from marjoram poisoning in under one week (although recovery times vary based upon age and prior health) and will not usually require the follow-up visits necessitated by life-threatening conditions. However, owners will still have to take adequate precautions to make sure the cat heals properly. Firstly, they must only be fed a bland diet for a few weeks; this will let the stomach and intestines recover from the trauma of the poisoning. Secondly, the cat may need to be confined to the house for several days in order to prevent them from over-exerting themselves and delaying the healing process.