What is Mother-in-Law's Tongue Poisoning?
Poisoning caused by the mother-in-law’s tongue plant is not usually life-threatening. However, plant poisoning will cause discomfort for your cat, and should be treated by a veterinary professional immediately.
The mother-in-law’s tongue plant is a common house plant that is toxic to many domestic animals, including dogs and cats. The mother-in-law’s tongue plant contains saponins, which cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Recognize the mother-in-law’s tongue by its long, flat leaves, which feature a striped pattern. These leaves have a smooth or waxy texture when touched and are a dark green color with a lighter green outline.
Symptoms of Mother-in-Law's Tongue Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of mother-in-law’s tongue plant poisoning usually manifest within two hours following ingestion. Seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
The mother-in-law’s tongue plant is known by many names, including:
- Snake Plant
- Good luck plant
- Golden bird’s nest
- Sansevieria trifasciata
Causes of Mother-in-Law's Tongue Poisoning in Cats
The cause of mother-in-law’s tongue poisoning in cats is ingestion. At this time, it is unclear which parts of the plant your cat needs to ingest in order to develop symptoms associated with poisoning. Mother-in-law’s tongue will not usually cause severe poisoning, although signs may be more severe if your cat ingests large quantities of the plant. This is unlikely since symptoms tend to manifest rapidly. If you believe your cat has ingested any part of the mother-in-law’s tongue plant in any quantity, take it to the vet immediately to ensure the best prognosis.
Diagnosis of Mother-in-Law's Tongue Poisoning in Cats
It is always a good idea to call your vet before you arrive to inform them that they will need to treat a case of mother-in-law’s tongue poisoning. Your vet may be able to advise you on steps you can take to relieve your cat’s discomfort at home. If the mother-in-law’s tongue plant your cat ingested is your own house plant, take a sample of it with you when you go to the vet. If you know approximately how much of the plant your cat ingested, be sure to provide this information to your vet. Always tell your vet how long your cat has been experiencing symptoms.
Your vet will confirm poisoning using standard laboratory tests, most commonly blood work and urinalysis. Other tests may be used based on your cat’s symptoms.
Treatment of Mother-in-Law's Tongue Poisoning in Cats
Treatment for mild cases of mother-in-law’s tongue poisoning is typically straightforward and will involve standard treatment methods for plant poisoning. Your vet may induce vomiting to clear the saponins from your cat’s system. Intravenous fluid therapy is often used in cases of plant poisoning to correct fluid imbalances. The use of activated charcoal can absorb undigested toxins in the stomach. If persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea are present, your vet may choose to administer medications to stop vomiting and diarrhea. Your vet may also recommend dietary changes for your cat, as plant ingestion can be a sign that your cat is not receiving adequate nutrition.
Severe cases of mother-in-law’s tongue poisoning are very rare, so specific treatment methods are not outlined in current veterinary literature. Your vet will recommend additional treatment based on your cat’s symptoms.
Recovery of Mother-in-Law's Tongue Poisoning in Cats
Recovery and prognosis of mother-in-law’s tongue poisoning is usually excellent following treatment. Most cases of mild plant poisoning resolve within twenty-four hours following treatment. The prognosis for severe cases of poisoning may vary based on symptoms present and the effectiveness of treatment.
It is unlikely that your cat will encounter the mother-in-law’s tongue plant while outside, as it is native to certain areas of West Africa. If you purchased the mother-in-law’s tongue as a house plant, removing it from your home will prevent your cat coming into contact with it. You should never assume that your cat cannot reach a toxic plant even if you place it in what you think is a hard-to-reach area. Cats are known for their wily and curious natures; stay on the safe side and never use plants that are toxic to your cat as a decorative house plant. Before making any plant purchases, always research the plant you hope to buy to ensure it does not contain substances that are toxic to your cat.
For mild cases of plant poisoning, your vet will not usually schedule any follow-up appointments as long as treatment is successful. For more severe cases of mother-in-law’s tongue poisoning, your vet may schedule follow-up appointments as needed based on symptoms present.