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What is Sabi Star Poisoning?

All parts of the sabi star are poisonous, and ingestion can cause moderate to severe symptoms in cats. If you think your cat has ingested any part of the sabi star, seek veterinary treatment immediately even if symptoms appear to be mild.

The sabi star plant is a member of the Apocynaceae family. Many plants in this family are toxic to animals, including cats, dogs, and horses. The sabi star has been used for centuries as a poison. Recognize the sabi star by its thick stems and vivid pink, star-shaped flowers. The sabi star contains several toxins, including cardioactive steroids, cardiac glycosides, and digitalis-like glycosides. 

Symptoms of Sabi Star Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms usually appear quickly following ingestion, within a few minutes to two hours. Consult your vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Signs of abdominal pain
  • Drooling
  • Decrease in body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Signs of depression

The following serious symptoms are associated with ingestion of larger quantities. 

  • Slow or rapid heart rate
  • Sudden death

Types

The sabi star is known by several different names, including:

  • Adenium obesum
  • Desert azalea
  • Desert rose
  • Mock azalea
  • Impala lily
  • Kudu lily

Causes of Sabi Star Poisoning in Cats

The cause of sabi star poisoning in cats is ingestion of the plant. All parts of the plant are poisonous and contain several types of toxins, including:

  • Digitalis-like glycosides: Directly affect enzymes that balance the levels of sodium and potassium ions in the body. Can lead to heart failure and death when consumed in large quantities.
  • Cardiac glycosides: Affect the neurological, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems. Some cardiac glycosides have chemotherapeutic properties in small doses but are fatal in large doses.
  • Cardioactive steroids: Can treat congestive heart failure in humans in small doses; can cause severe cardiac complications in higher doses. Cardioactive steroids can be fatal to younger and older humans as well as domestic animals.

While cats do not usually ingest large quantities of poisonous plants, ingesting only a small amount can trigger fatal symptoms. If your cat has ingested any part of the sabi star in any quantity, you should rush it to the vet immediately.

Diagnosis of Sabi Star Poisoning in Cats

Call your vet ahead of time to let them know your cat has ingested the sabi star. If the flower is your own house plant, take a sample of it with you when you go the vet. Always let your vet know how long your cat has been experiencing symptoms, as well as an estimate of how much of the plant your cat ingested if you have it.

Blood and urine tests are almost always used to confirm plant poisoning. CT scans and x-rays may also be required for cats exhibiting severe symptoms. Other tests may be utilized based on suspected organ damage.

Treatment of Sabi Star Poisoning in Cats

Since sabi star poisoning can be fatal even when small quantities are ingested, treatment may vary. Mild cases of plant poisoning are usually treated by inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, and starting intravenous fluid therapy. Cats experiencing persistent vomiting will be given antiemetics.

Severe cases of sabi star poisoning may require gastric lavage. This procedure involves flushing the stomach with a saline solution to clear remaining toxins. Hospitalization may be required so the vet can monitor your cat’s heart function. Drugs to remove blockages in the heart may be prescribed. Other treatments may be recommended on a symptomatic basis.

Recovery of Sabi Star Poisoning in Cats

Recovery and prognosis will depend on the amount ingested and how quickly the poisoning was diagnosed and treated. While most mild cases of plant poisoning resolve within 24 hours following treatment, the prognosis for sabi star poisoning may be guarded due to the potency of the plant.

Your vet will schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor heart and organ function. During these appointments, your vet may take ECGs or CT scans to ensure healing, particularly if your cat has experienced serious symptoms.

If your cat ingested the sabi star while outside, you may want to limit or monitor your cat’s outdoor activity to prevent future poisoning. If you purchased the sabi star as a house plant, removing it may be the best way to prevent exposure.