What is Palm Lily Poisoning?
The main toxins in palm lily are saponins, which lead to uncomfortable poisoning symptoms for your cat. This tree is only slightly poisonous, and because its toxin gives the plant material a highly bitter taste, it very unlikely cats will consume large amounts of the plant.
The palm lily also goes by the names grass palm, cabbage palm and giant dracaena. Of the Agavaceae family, its scientific name is Cordyline australis. This plant is actually a small evergreen tree consisting of a single trunk with several thick branches. The long leaves look like swords, gathered as thick leaf clusters. Look for a loose cluster of small, creamy flowers.
Symptoms of Palm Lily Poisoning in Cats
Once your cat has managed to eat a bit of palm lily, it may develop these symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting (vomit may be stained with blood)
- Excessive salivation
- May develop dilated pupils
Unless a cat manages to eat an excessive amount of palm lily, its symptoms are generally life-threatening.
Causes of Palm Lily Poisoning in Cats
The main toxin in palm lily are saponins, which are natural chemicals which protect the plant from fungi, pests (insects) and various microbes. Toxin content in the tree is low, which means that, while animals may become sick, they are at low risk of suffering permanent damage or death.
Saponins have a bitter taste, which makes it difficult for animals to continue eating any part of the palm lily. It’s more likely to give up and go find something else to do rather than continue eating something that tastes bad.
Diagnosis of Palm Lily Poisoning in Cats
When your cat begins to vomit or have diarrhea, this will be your first indication that it is ill or poisoned. If you are able to spot bits of the plant in its vomitus, do your best to isolate these and put them into a plastic bag. Your vet may use them for examination or testing so she knows what treatments will be the best for bringing your cat back to good health.
At the vet’s office, your cat will undergo a full physical, including a urinalysis and blood work. The lab will test the blood, urine and plant bits you brought in, but the treatment your vet gives is aimed primarily at treating symptoms and making your cat feel better.
Treatment of Palm Lily Poisoning in Cats
The vet will begin giving fluids to your cat to help rehydrate it, especially if it has had several episodes of vomiting or diarrhea.
In addition to the IV, your vet will give two medications to your cat. The first is Kapectolin, which coats your cat’s stomach, reducing irritation from the plant. The second medication is Sucralfate, which, in reacting to your cat’s stomach acids, forms a heavy paste. This paste becomes a barrier between your cat’s stomach lining and whatever remains in your cat’s stomach.
Recovery of Palm Lily Poisoning in Cats
Your cat will recover and return home. Animals that eat a large amount of palm lily are the only ones whose illnesses are life-threatening.
While your cat is still at the vet’s being treated, come home and have the palm lily removed from your yard. Make sure that all clippings are raked up and disposed of. You don’t want your cat to nibble on any leaves, bark or branches, becoming sick once again.
If your cat has been allowed to roam outdoors, try to identify every plant in your yard and remove those poisonous to cats and other small animals. Once this is done, it can safely roam in your yard, though plants in neighboring yards may still pose a risk.