What is Roman Chamomile Poisoning?

Roman chamomile contains many toxic components including terpenoids and flavonoids such as bisabolol, chamazulene, volatile oil, and both anthemic and tannic acids. These toxins can cause severe irritation both internally and externally in cats. Because there are so many different chemical compounds within the plant, more allergic reactions are caused by Roman chamomile than many other plants. This can lead to swelling of the oral tissues and potential airway blockage. That being said, most encounters between cats and Roman chamomile are not lethal.

Roman chamomile is a very common perennial herb that grows all over North America. Its scientific name is Anthemis nobilis of the Asteraceae plant family and is sometimes called “garden apple” for its sweet-smelling fragrance. The plant grows many blossoms, which resemble small daisies having yellow centers and white petals. Roman chamomile can grow up to 1 foot high and has a very extensive root system. The leaves are feather-like and dull green in color. They are grown both for their ornamental value and their medicinal value, being used in many herbal remedies for humans. 

Symptoms of Roman Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

Exposure to the juices in the Roman chamomile may cause severe reactions both inside and outside the body. Long-term exposure carries the possibility of blood clotting complications. All signs to watch for are listed as follows:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Allergic reactions
  • Dermatitis

Causes of Roman Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

This plant can be found in both landscape and herb gardens. It can also grow wild in fields. Outdoor cats are more likely to come into contact with Roman chamomile in its natural state, however, indoor cats may be exposed to the plant via tea bags or essential oils in the home. A cat is not likely to consume much of the plant material, as it is very acidic in taste. 

Diagnosis of Roman Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

If your cat begins to show signs of illness or allergic reaction, take it into a veterinary clinic to be assessed. If you have witnessed your cat eating a plant but are unsure of what it was, take a small cutting to bring along with you for a veterinarian to identify. Providing your cat's full medical history can help the vet in both properly diagnosing the cat and providing the most appropriate treatment. You may be asked if you allow your cat outdoors and what types of plants you keep in your gardens. You may also be asked if your cat could have gotten access to tea bags in the garbage.

The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination, checking the oral cavity for any signs of plant matter and monitoring the skin for signs of irritation. The cat's vital functions will then be measured including its temperature and blood pressure. A stethoscope may be used to determine if the cat's breathing is normal or not. The vet will likely draw a sample of the cat's blood so that routine testing may be done. This generally includes a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to measure levels of cells and minerals in the bloodstream, giving a more complete picture of the cat's health. 

Treatment of Roman Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

Most cases of Roman chamomile poisoning will only require a close monitoring of the cat throughout the period of illness. Be sure that the cat has access to lots of water during this time.

Remove Stomach Contents

This may be done either by emesis (inducing vomiting) with hydrogen peroxide or by gastric lavage (pumping of the stomach). Removing all remaining plant material can prevent symptoms from becoming worse.

Wash Oral Cavity

Flushing the cat's mouth with water will help remove bits of plant stuck in the mouth and will soothe irritation. If other body parts are showing signs of irritation, they should be washed also.

Medication 

The vet may administer medications to soothe the cat's stomach such as Kapectolin or sucralfate. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine may be given to reduce severe allergic reactions.

Recovery of Roman Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

Cats who have ingested Roman chamomile usually have a very good prognosis. Serious illness is unlikely to develop and most cats will recover within a day or so. No lasting health effects should be seen from the episode. 

To prevent your cat from eating Roman chamomile, deter it from going into gardens. The easiest way to do this may be to keep the animal indoors. Roman chamomile essential oil is sometimes recommended for use on cats, however, its application can only be deemed safe after consultation with your veterinarian.