What is Panda Plant Poisoning?
The panda plant is dangerous to cats because of the toxin it contains, insoluble calcium oxalates. Your cat will experience extremely uncomfortable symptoms, but as long as it didn’t eat a large amount of panda plant, it will survive.
Your cat is curious and can quickly get in trouble if it decides to munch on this plant. The calcium oxalates shoot out of the gelatin in which they are encased, then they bury themselves into the tender tissues of your cat’s mouth, lips and possibly, its esophagus. If your cat has gotten into this house plant and you notice that it’s in distress and pawing at its mouth, get to the vet right away.
It isn’t very likely your cat will be able to eat a large amount of panda plant. With the pain symptoms that immediately develop, your cat is more likely to turn away and begin expressing extreme distress.
The panda plant is part of the Araceae family and has the scientific name Philodendron bipennifolium. You’ll be able to find it under other names, such as fiddle-leaf, horsehead philodendron, saddle leaf, cordatum, red princess, heartleaf philodendron, red emerald, split leaf philodendron and the fruit salad plant.
Symptoms of Panda Plant Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms begin immediately:
- Intense burning of the mouth, tongue, and lips
- Oral irritation of the mouth tongue and lips
- Swelling of the throat
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
These symptoms can show up for two weeks after your cat eats panda plant.
Eating larger quantities means your cat gets even more ill:
- Severe digestive upset
- Severe difficulty breathing
- Rapid and shallow gasps (dyspnea)
Additional, severe symptoms develop if your cat was able to eat much larger amounts:
- Renal failure
Recovery is possible, but your cat may develop permanent damage to its liver and kidneys.
Causes of Panda Plant Poisoning in Cats
The toxin within the panda plant that makes your cat so sick is called insoluble calcium oxalates. These oxalates are housed within idioblasts, a type of non-living cell. A gelatin protects the oxalates until something (like your cat’s saliva) cause the idioblast to open.
The microscopic bundles of oxalates within the idioblast are known as raphides. One end of the crystal is extremely sharp and, when it ejects itself out of the idioblast, it buries itself into your cat’s lips, mouth and tongue. Your cat experiences immediate, intense pain. Because of this sharp pain, it may not swallow the plant, instead, spitting it out. If it swallows the plant, your cat’s health and life are in more danger.
Diagnosis of Panda Plant Poisoning in Cats
You’ll know immediately that your cat is ill. Besides the vocalizations of pain and the excessive drooling, you may see your cat choking and having difficulty breathing.
If you see bits of plant on your cat’s lips or in its mouth, remove them with cool, clean water and put these samples into a plastic bag. Get your cat into its carrier and go to the vet’s office immediately.
Your cat will undergo a full physical. Even though you may have provided plant samples, your vet exercises caution to ensure that your cat hasn’t developed another health condition. If it was fortunate enough to eat only a small amount of panda plant, its symptoms may be limited to the burning, intense pain. In the tiny possibility that your cat was able to ignore the burning pain, ingesting a larger amount of panda plant, it could begin vomiting and experiencing diarrhea, but this is not very likely.
Your vet will order blood work (CBC and chemistry profile), which helps to make a better diagnosis of your cat’s health issue. Your cat will have to give a urine sample. This allows the vet to check for crystal formations in the urine. This tells the vet that your cat may have swallowed some of the plant and crystals.
Treatment of Panda Plant Poisoning in Cats
Your vet may give your cat a dose of diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to bring down any oral swelling your cat is experiencing. The Benadryl can also help to prevent or reduce the swelling of the airway caused by its body’s inflammatory response. If your cat did develop gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea), it may be given Kapectolin, which coats its stomach, or sucralfate, which interacts with your cat’s stomach acids, forming a paste that acts as a barrier between the lining of its stomach and anything remaining in the stomach.
Your cat may be dehydrated because of being unable to eat or drink from the pain in its mouth. If it developed vomiting or diarrhea, the dehydration can be even more intense. The vet may start an intravenous fluid solution to rehydrate your pet and to help flush any remaining toxins from your cat’s body. The IV fluid also helps your cat avoid developing crystalluria, or crystals in its urine.
For breathing difficulties and lowered oxygen saturation levels, your vet may give oxygen to your cat (via oxygen cage or a flow-by) to help get his oxygen levels back to normal. If its swelling and breathing issues are severe, your cat may need to be intubated until the swelling goes down and its condition stabilizes.
Recovery of Panda Plant Poisoning in Cats
Your cat should recover normally once all the toxins and crystal oxalates are out of its body. While it’s under treatment, make sure that your panda plant (and any plant containing insoluble calcium oxalates) are removed from your home.
Healthy cats can easily recover from panda plant poisoning, based on the treatments your vet gives. It may stay in the animal hospital until its symptoms disappear and its condition becomes stable again.
Spend as much time with your cat as possible. Give it lots of positive attention and engage its mind with daily play sessions so boredom does not lead your cat to experiment with eating dangerous plants.
Indulge its love of nibbling by buying cat-friendly grasses. These include wheat grass, oat, and rye. Grow several small pots and scatter them around your house so your cat can nibble when the urge strikes.