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What is Poison Parsnip Poisoning?

Taking your cat to a veterinarian immediately after you spot the symptoms of poison parsnip poisoning is imperative. The longer you wait to bring your cat in for treatment, the less of a chance he as of surviving.

The poison parsnip plant, also known as the water hemlock or cowbane, is highly toxic to cats. It contains cicutoxin, and unlike other toxic plants, it does not have an unpleasant smell or taste, so animals often eat it in large amounts.

Cicutoxin can cause diarrhea, dilated pupils, tremors, bloating, abdominal pain, fever, and seizures in cats. As time goes on, these symptoms become more severe. In fact, cicutoxin can cause death by respiratory depression in as little as fifteen minutes.

Symptoms of Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of poison parsnip poisoning can set in within five minutes of consumption, however some cats may not exhibit symptoms for up to an hour. Symptoms tend to worsen as time passes, so it’s important to take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible after spotting any of these signs of poisoning:

  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Respiratory depression
  • Death (if left untreated)

Causes of Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

Cats will develop poison parsnip poisoning if they consume the poison parsnip plant. Poison parsnip contains cicutoxin, which disrupts the central nervous system after it is consumed. This toxin is found in high concentrations in the plant’s roots and rootstalks, but every part of the poison parsnip contains some level of this toxin.

Diagnosis of Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

Take your cat to a vet as soon as possible if you spot him eating the poison parsnip plant or if he begins to exhibit signs of poison parsnip poisoning. If possible, bring in a picture or sample of the plant so the vet can quickly make a diagnosis. Be sure to wear gloves when handling the plant to protect yourself. Quickly describe the symptoms you have observed to your vet. Let him know when you first spotted the symptoms, and if your cat was exposed to anything unusual.

The presence of cicutoxin or poison parsnip ingestion can be detected using blood tests or by using an endoscope to examine the contents of your cat’s stomach. But, because cats poisoned by this plant can deteriorate rapidly, he will probably not perform these tests prior to starting treatment. Bringing in a picture or sample of the plant is your best chance at helping the vet make a quick diagnosis and saving your cat’s life. 

Treatment of Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

Treatment will need to begin immediately after your cat has been brought into a veterinarian’s office. The vet will begin by inducing vomiting to remove any of the plant matter remaining in your cat’s stomach. The vet will need to closely monitor your cat to ensure he does not become dehydrated from excessive vomiting. If dehydration does occur, your cat will need to receive fluids intravenously to prevent further complications.

Activated charcoal can also be administered to absorb any toxins that remain in your cat’s stomach. The vet can also perform a gastric lavage, which is a stomach wash, to flush out the stomach. 

It’s possible your cat will need to be sedated prior to treatment. The vet may need to place an oxygen tube down your cat’s throat to prevent him from suffering from respiratory depression as a result of the poisoning.

If your cat has already started to have seizures, the vet can administer medication to stop the convulsions. Benzodiazepines can be given through an IV for this purpose. 

Recovery of Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

Death may occur within as little as 15 minutes of ingesting poison parsnip. The sooner your cat receives treatment, the better his chances are of making a full recovery. Cats that have not yet had seizures are more likely to recover than those who have already started to have multiple seizures.

The vet may need to continue monitoring your cat following treatment. This is especially common if your cat suffered dehydration or needed a respirator during treatment. Once your cat has returned home, keep him calm and comfortable while he recovers. Talk to your vet about whether you need to switch to softer foods so you don’t upset your cat’s stomach, which is probably sensitive following treatment. 

If your cat survives, you should do everything possible to ensure your cat does not come into contact with this plant again. Carefully remove poison parsnip from your yard and advise other people in the community to do so as well. Keep your cat indoors as much as possible to prevent him from coming into contact with this or other toxic plants.