What is Mint Poisoning?
Most mint plants contain essential oils which can cause negative responses if consumed in high quantities. Both catnip and catmint are types of mint that are safe to cats. Garden mint may cause gastrointestinal upset if too much is eaten. The essential oils specific to garden mint have also been known to relax the esophageal valve, making vomiting more likely in a cat who may already be ill. A few forms of mint, such as the pennyroyal, can cause very severe effects within the body including liver failure. Cats with existing liver, intestine or bowel disease are at a heightened risk of developing complications after ingesting mint. Contact with mint may cause skin irritation in hypersensitive cats.
There are numerous subspecies of mint plants. All are a part of the Lamiaceae (or Sage) family of plants. The most common type of mint is garden mint. This is the mint that is often cultivated for use as a culinary herb. Most mint plants have wrinkled leaves that grow in an ovular shape. The flowers of the mint grow in clusters on stalks and range in color from lavender to white. Many types of mint grow wild all over the United States. The plant can reach over 3 feet in height, but often grows long and low to the ground.
Symptoms of Mint Poisoning in Cats
With most forms of mint, it is rare for any illness to follow consumption. If a reaction does occur, it will likely be limited to gastrointestinal distress. A few types of mint are capable of causing real damage to the body. All signs to watch for are listed as follows:
Causes of Mint Poisoning in Cats
Mint may be found in the wild growing near sources of water or in other damp locations. Many people keep mint in their herb gardens or indoors in their kitchens for both culinary and medicinal uses. Both indoor and outdoor cats may be exposed to this common herb. Generally, a very large quantity must be eaten for any kind of negative affect to manifest. Mint poisoning among cats is extremely rare.
Diagnosis of Mint Poisoning in Cats
If your cat begins to exhibit severe symptoms, or if you become worried about its well being, take it in to see your veterinarian. If you witnessed your cat eating a plant before symptoms arose, share this information with the vet, as it will make diagnosis much easier. You may be asked to provide the cat's full medical history to identify potential health issues that could render a cat more susceptible to gastrointestinal sensitivity. You may also be asked if you allow your cat outdoors, and what plants you keep in your home.
The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination of the cat, checking for any abnormalities. A sample of the cat's blood will be collected so that routine tests can be performed to assess the cat's overall health condition. These tests generally include a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to measure all levels of cells and minerals in the blood. Urinalysis may also be needed to monitor how the liver is functioning.
Treatment of Mint Poisoning in Cats
Most cases of illness caused by mint ingestion will not need treatment. If the cat has a pre-existing health issue, or if a severe reaction occurs, treatment may then be necessary.
Remove Stomach Contents
To do this, the vet may induce vomiting using hydrogen peroxide. A gastric lavage (stomach pump) may also be used in more extreme cases. Both of these procedures will remove all plant material from the stomach before it can be fully digested.
The cat should be kept as comfortable as possible during the episode of illness. If excessive vomiting or diarrhea have caused the cat to become dehydrated, intravenous fluids may need to be administered to stabilize the animal. The cat will need to be hospitalized during this time.
Recovery of Mint Poisoning in Cats
The vast majority of cats will make a full recovery from consuming too much mint. In cases where liver damage has occurred, this may lead to ongoing health issues in the cat. Because mint plants are so common, it may be a good idea to get familiar with the ones that grow naturally in your area, taking special note of any that are known to be toxic. It should be noted that any mint essential oils are too potent for use on cats and should never be administered for medicinal purposes. Keep any potted mint plants out of your cat's reach to ensure they are not ingested. It may also be a good idea to keep your cat indoors to protect it from all toxic plants that may be found in surrounding gardens and other areas.