What is Peach Poisoning?
The peach, Prunus persica, is closely related to plums, apricots and cherries, all of which have plant parts that are toxic to cats. Peaches are a common household food, may be made into essential oils, and are kept as trees commonly grown in household gardens. The flesh of peaches is not poisonous to cats, however, peach flesh ingestion is not well tolerated by cats and may result in gastrointestinal symptoms. The leaves, stems and pits (kernels) are extremely toxic to cats, other animals, and humans, however, as they contain cyanide. Peach toxicity from ingestion of toxic plant parts or absorption of peach oil made with peach kernels can result in severe symptoms of toxicity such as difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, bright red mucous membranes, coma, and death. Also, peach pits represent a choking hazard to your cat. If your cat has ingested toxic peach tree parts, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms of Peach Poisoning in Cats
Peach tree elements contain cyanide, which inhibits oxygenation of tissues, resulting in severe toxicity symptoms. Symptoms of poisoning from cyanide contained in leaves and stems of peach trees or in peach pits are:
- Dehydration/loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Pain/Swollen abdomen
- Depressed central nervous system functioning
- Dilated pupils
- Cardiac arrest
- Bright red gums and mucous membranes
- Respiratory distress (coughing, hyperventilation, panting)
Causes of Peach Poisoning in Cats
The stems, leaves, and seeds (pits, kernels) of peaches contain amygdalin which is a sugar-cyanide compound. Enzymes in the digestive system can break this down into cyanide, which is very toxic. Leaves of a peach tree that are wilting are particularly toxic. Peach pits that are discarded around the house and are apt to become playthings for cats, can become fragmented and ingested, which can cause a danger from choking or risk of cyanide toxicity. In addition, peach pits or kernels are sometimes made into oils and marketed as home remedies. This oil, if applied to your cat's skin, can be absorbed, causing a severe toxic reaction. Be sure to dispose of peach pits properly so they do not become a hazard to your cat and avoid products made with toxic peach tree parts.
Diagnosis of Peach Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosis of peach (cyanide) poisoning in your cat will be based on a history of recent ingestion or exposure to toxic parts of a peach plant and symptoms of cyanide poisoning. Your veterinarian may order tests such as blood and urine for analysis to determine the extent of toxicity and the effect on organs and organ systems.
Treatment of Peach Poisoning in Cats
If ingestion is recent, vomiting may be induced, however, due to the risk of obstruction from peach pit fragments this may not be a viable option. Usually treatment for ingestion of toxic peach plants consists of supportive therapy. Your veterinarian will provide oxygen therapy to address respiratory distress, intravenous fluids to address dehydration, and administer medications that may be effective for treatment of poisoning. Medications such as hydroxylamine hydrochloride, dimethylaminophenol, and amyl nitrite may provide relief from symptoms of peach poisoning in cats.
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Recovery of Peach Poisoning in Cats
Unfortunately, due to the severe toxicity of peach tree compounds, prognosis for a cat experiencing peach toxicity is poor. In addition, medications used to treat this type of poisoning can have harmful side effects. Organ damage that occurs may be permanent. If your cat survives poisoning from peach compounds they will likely need ongoing special considerations in diet and ongoing medication and veterinary care to address damage done to organs.