What is Octopus Tree Poisoning?
The octopus tree is a member of the Araliaceae family and is known throughout the world by its scientific names; Schefflera actinophylla or Brassaia actinophylla. However, the octopus tree has also been given a variety of common names, including the starleaf, Australian ivy palm, umbrella tree and the schefflera. The octopus tree is grown in warm climates and is capable of reaching heights of nearly 50 feet. The octopus tree is favored for its sweet dull red flowers that bloom in the early months of summer, attracting a variety of birds that enjoy consuming this tree’s sweet nectar.
Octopus tree poisoning in cats is a type of plant toxicity caused by the ingestion of the octopus tree material. This decorative evergreen produces naturally occurring toxins, known as saponins, insoluble oxalates, and terpenoids, which cause the feline to develop gastrointestinal upset. Felines that consume the octopus tree’s vegetation can be easily treated and fatality from this variety of poisoning is very rare.
Symptoms of Octopus Tree Poisoning in Cats
The symptoms of octopus tree poisoning in cats are usually limited to gastrointestinal upset, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. However, the octopus tree does contain toxic substances that have been known to cause loss of appetite, leucopenia (low white blood cell count) and ataxia.
A complete list of an octopus tree poisoning symptoms in cats are listed below:
- Loss of appetite
- Low white blood cell count
Causes of Octopus Tree Poisoning in Cats
Octopus tree poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestion of any portion of this decorative evergreen tree. The octopus tree produces natural chemicals to protect itself from fungi, illnesses, and insects, which are mildly toxic to domestic pets. These naturally occurring toxins, known as saponins, give the octopus tree a bitter taste and the likelihood that a feline would ingest a fatal dosage of the plant is very low. The octopus tree also contains insoluble oxalates and terpenoids that are known to cause irritation to the feline’s digestive system.
Diagnosis of Octopus Tree Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosing an octopus tree poisoning case is challenging, as there is no specific test available for identifying this type of toxicity. 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. It will be important for you to inform the veterinarian about your feline’s recent actions and possible exposure to the octopus tree, as this information will aid in ruling out other possible causes. The clinical signs that octopus tree poisoning causes in cat, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are the same symptoms as several other feline-related health conditions. The veterinarian will want to conduct a series of diagnostic tests to ensure your cat is truly suffering from an octopus tree toxicity and not a more severe underlying condition. Diagnostic tests the veterinarian will likely request to be performed on the feline include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal floatation test
- Fecal examination
Treatment of Octopus Tree Poisoning in Cats
Octopus tree poisoning in cats is treated by removing the plant from the feline to prevent further ingestion and eliminating the toxins from the cat’s body. An emetic drug will likely be administered to encourage the feline to vomit and remove undigested octopus tree vegetation from the cat’s upper digestive system. If your cat has not vomited, activated charcoal may be administered by the veterinarian to bind with the toxic agent and prevent the body from further absorption of the plant chemicals. If the stomach has undergone irritation from consuming the octopus tree, the veterinarian may administer Kapectolin, a product that provides a thick coating to the stomach wall. To reduce the stomach acid inside the stomach and prevent high acidity from corroding the stomach’s mucosal layer, the veterinarian may administer sucralfate. Sucralfate works with the stomach acid to form a paste-like coating, acting as a barrier between the stomach contents and the stomach’s soft tissues. The feline’s treatment may end with intravenous fluids to restore his or her hydration, as vomiting and diarrhea will cause the cat’s fluid levels to drop significantly.
Recovery of Octopus Tree Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis for octopus tree poisoning in cats is generally good to excellent. Most cats will begin to show signs of improvement within an hour of treatment and make a full recovery after 24 hours. As with all plant toxicity cases, the earlier the feline is admitted to the veterinary hospital, the greater chance she/he has of making a full recovery.