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What is Oilcloth Flower?

An oilcloth flower poisoning in cats is a type of plant toxicity caused by the ingestion of any or all portions of the brightly flowered plant. The oilcloth flower plant usually causes a mild form of toxicity due to the fact that most felines spit out the plant after experiencing the burning sensation of the needle-like calcium crystals. Most felines will display very obvious signs of mouth irritation followed by vomiting and difficulties breathing. An oilcloth flower poisoning in cats should always be addressed by a veterinarian, as severe swelling of the upper airways can cause suffocation.

Symptoms of Oilcloth Flower in Cats

Clinical signs of an oilcloth flower poisoning in cats may be seen immediately after ingestion, as biting into the plant releases the needle-like oxalate crystals, piercing the feline’s tissues. The feline may begin to paw at her face and drool profusely or foam at the mouth. The feline’s face, lips and tongue will likely swell, as well as the upper airways, making breathing difficult. If the feline swallowed the plant vegetation, despite irritation to the mouth, he or she may vomit in an attempt to rid the body of the indigestible toxin.

Causes of Oilcloth Flower in Cats

A feline can become poisoned by all parts of the oilcloth flower, including the leaves, roots, stem, flower, and pollen. The oilcloth flower contains insoluble calcium oxalates, which are non-living substances characterized by their needle-like bundles of crystals.

When a feline consumes a portion of the oilcloth flower, the idioblast cell is broken down by the cat’s saliva and allows the raphides, or calcium crystals, to leave the cell. When the raphides leave the idioblast cell, they shoot out in violent, penetrating projections that pierce the feline’s mouth and embed themselves in the upper digestive tract. The feline feels immediate discomfort as the millions of microscopic needles lodges themselves in the mouth, tongue, throat and stomach. 

Diagnosis of Oilcloth Flower in Cats

Diagnosing an oilcloth flower poisoning in cats is difficult 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 condition. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, review of the feline’s medical history and a consultation with the pet owner. The clinical signs that Oilcloth Flower poisoning causes in cats, such as vomiting, are the same symptoms as several other feline health conditions, so the veterinarian may want to conduct a series of diagnostic tests to ensure your cat is truly suffering from an oilcloth flower 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 Oilcloth Flower in Cats

Oilcloth flower 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. As oral irritation is common, the cat’s mouth will be flushed out with distilled water. An emetic drug will likely be administered to encourage the feline to vomit and remove undigested plant 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 oilcloth flower, 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 Oilcloth Flower in Cats

The prognosis for a case of oilcloth flower poisoning in cats depends on the quantity of plant vegetation consumed by the cat and if the feline’s airways closed before treatment could be received. If the ingestion of the Oilcloth Flower was witnessed by the cat owner, further consumption of the plant was stopped and treatment was received, the prognosis is generally good to excellent. 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.