What is Medicine Plant Poisoning?
The medicine plant contains a number of toxins including anthraquinone glycosides, aloin, barbaloin, emodin, saponins and chrysophanic acid. The leaves are the most toxic, due to the higher levels of aloin that sit right under the skin of the plant. These aloins act as an aggressive laxative, inducing the bowel muscles to contract and produce watery stool. While poisoning from the medicine plant is generally not life-threatening for cats, severe dehydration can occur, which does pose a real danger if not addressed. Pregnant cats may experience spontaneous miscarriage after eating medicine plant as it can also cause uterine contractions.
Medicine plant, also known as “Barbados aloe” and “true aloe”, is a common succulent that can be kept both in and out of doors depending on climate. It's scientific name is Aloe barbadensis of the Aloaceae family. The medicine plant has large, thick and fleshy leaves filled with clear gel. The edges of the leaves are jagged, although not very sharp. Tubular flowers grow from long stems and range in color from light yellow to dark orange. It can be found in gardens in both Texas and Florida due to the tropical temperatures in those states.
Symptoms of Medicine Plant Poisoning in Cats
The most common response after ingesting medicine plant is gastrointestinal upset. Contact with the skin can also cause external irritation. All signs to watch for are listed as follows:
- Red or brown urine
Causes of Medicine Plant Poisoning in Cats
While medicine plant may be found growing outdoors in the southern United States, it is much more commonly found potted indoors. People keep the plant for both its interesting shape and its medicinal benefits. The clear gel inside of the leaves can be used to treat burns and other ailments. This means that indoor cats may be exposed to the medicine plant just as much as outdoor cats.
Diagnosis of Medicine Plant Poisoning in Cats
You may notice that obvious damage has occurred to your Medicine plant. If this is the case, monitor your cat closely for signs of poisoning, and bring it into a veterinary clinic if they begin to manifest. You may be asked to provide the veterinarian with your cat's full medical history to help identify potential complications and ensure the best treatment is given to your cat. If symptoms began without any signs of plant consumption, you may also be asked about which type of plants you keep in your home.
The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination of the cat to look for any abnormalities. At this time the vet will also likely listen to the cat's breathing and heart rate using a stethoscope. A sample of the cat's blood will be taken for routine tests to be run. These tests generally include a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to get an overall look at the cat's health condition. A cat who has been poisoned by Medicine Plant may have unusually low electrolyte levels from dehydration. If the urine is collected for testing, strange coloration may be noticed.
Treatment of Medicine Plant Poisoning in Cats
The only course of treatment for a cat who has consumed Medicine Plant is to monitor it for signs of dehydration and take steps to stabilize the animal at that point.
The fastest way to help a cat recover from dehydration is by administering fluids intravenously. Electrolytes may also be added to increase levels within the body.
Certain medications can be given to help ease gastrointestinal irritation. Kapectolin can be prescribed to coat the stomach with a protective lining. Sucralfate may also be used to form a paste in the stomach that prevents the contents from irritating the walls of the stomach.
Recovery of Medicine Plant Poisoning in Cats
In most instances, a full recovery is to be expected within 24 to 48 hours. No lasting health issues should result from medicine plant consumption. If you live in an area where medicine plant can survive outdoors, keeping your cat inside may prevent it from coming into contact with the plant. If you keep medicine plant in your home, be sure to put it in a spot where your cat cannot reach it. Some have chosen to remove it from their home to err on the side of caution.