What is Nandina Poisoning?
Nandina is a member of the Berberidaceae family and is known throughout the world by its scientific name, Nandina domestica. The nandina is also commonly called the heavenly bamboo and the sacred bamboo. The nandina can be identified by its attractive, lacy foliage that appears similar to the leaves of the bamboo tree. The nandina is a bronze or rose color when it is an infant, then turns a bright green coloration when it matures. The nandina is a popular landscaping plant, which makes nandina poisoning in cats a high risk.
Nandina poisoning in cats is caused by ingestion of any portion of the nandina plant, including the roots, stem, leaves or pollen. A cat could fall ill if he or she chews the leaves of the plant or consumes a portion of the plant entirely. The nandina plant is bitter in taste, so most felines only consume a small portion of the plant. However, consuming large quantities of nandina can be fatal and death commonly occurs before the cat owner is aware of the clinical signs.
Symptoms of Nandina Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of nandina poisoning in cats that owners should watch for are listed below:
- Bright red colored mucus membranes
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
- Respiratory failure
- Loss of coordination
In some circumstances, a nandina poisoning in cats can be detected by smelling a bitter almond scent on the cat’s breath as well.
Causes of Nandina Poisoning in Cats
Nandina poisoning in cats is caused by ingestion of any portion of the nandina plant. A cat could fall ill if he or she chews the leaves of the plant or consumes a portion of the plant. The toxic component of the nandina plant is cyanogenic glycosides, a natural self-defense toxin for the plant. When a feline chews on the plant, then it releases cyanogenic glucosides which transform into hydrogen cyanide when the glucose molecule is removed. Hydrogen cyanide interferes with the cat’s cells, preventing the production of ATP, a molecule that energizes each cell.
Diagnosis of Nandina Poisoning in Cats
Nandina poisoning in cats is an emergency situation and if your cat has ingested a portion of the nandina plant, there is no time for diagnostic tests. Treatment must begin immediately if you witnessed the ingestion of the nandina plant. However, if you did not witness the ingestion of the nandina plant and you have brought your cat into the clinic based on the symptoms she/he is displaying, diagnostic tests will be necessary.
There is no specific test available for identifying this type of toxicity, so your veterinarian’s diagnosis will be based on ruling out other possible causes of your feline’s current condition. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, a review of the feline’s medical history and a consultation with the pet owner.
Diagnostic tests the veterinarian may request include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Chest x-ray
- Chest ultrasound
Treatment of Nandina Poisoning in Cats
Treatment of nandina poisoning in cats involves preventing further consumption of the toxic plant and administering the cyanide antidote as soon as possible. The use of a gastric lavage may be beneficial in treating nandina poisoning if the ingested material has not made its way to the cat’s lower digestive system. The feline will also be placed on oxygen therapy immediately to treat the respiratory distress the cyanide toxin causes.
Recovery of Nandina Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis of nandina poisoning in cats depends on the quantity of plant material the feline ingested. A large quantity of nandina plant can cause almost immediate death, which makes any nandina feline intoxication prognosis guarded to poor.