First Walk is on Us!

✓ GPS tracked walks
✓ Activity reports
✓ On-demand walkers
Book FREE Walk

Jump to Section

What is Sacred Bamboo Poisoning?

If your cat ingests large amounts of the sacred bamboo plant, they can develop serious and even life-threatening symptoms. Take your cat to the vet immediately if they ingest any part of the sacred bamboo in any quantity. Even if symptoms appear to be mild, owners cannot fully understand the extent of poisoning without the help of a veterinarian.

The sacred bamboo plant, unlike the name suggests, is not actually a bamboo plant. It is a type of shrub called the Nandina domestica and is part of the Berberidaceae family. You can recognize the sacred bamboo by its clusters of bright red berries. The plant contains cyanogenic glycosides, a form of cyanide that can be very dangerous for domestic animals, including cats and dogs.

Symptoms of Sacred Bamboo Poisoning in Cats

Gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and abdominal pain usually appear within minutes following ingestion. More serious symptoms associated with ingestion of larger quantities can take longer to set in, as long as two hours. Seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Signs of abdominal pain
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hyperventilating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dark red mucous membranes
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure

The following symptoms may develop in serious cases:. 

  • Respiratory failure
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Coma
  • Sudden death (rare)

Types

The sacred bamboo is known by several different names, including:

  • Nandina domestica
  • Nandina
  • Heavenly bamboo

Causes of Sacred Bamboo Poisoning in Cats

Sacred bamboo poisoning in cats is caused by ingestion of the plant. The severity of symptoms directly correlates with the amount ingested. Cats aren’t likely to ingest large quantities of any poisonous plant because gastrointestinal symptoms appear rapidly following ingestion. Ingesting larger quantities of sacred bamboo can cause death in minutes. To secure the best prognosis for your cat, rush your cat to the vet immediately no matter which parts or how much of the sacred bamboo your cat has ingested.

Diagnosis of Sacred Bamboo Poisoning in Cats

If your cat is exhibiting serious symptoms, call your vet before you arrive to let them know they will need to treat an emergency case of sacred bamboo poisoning. They may be able to advise you over the phone on what you can do to relieve symptoms. Let the vet know how long your cat has been experiencing symptoms and give them an estimate on how much of the sacred bamboo your cat ingested if you can. However, this is not necessary.

Standard blood and urine tests are usually sufficient to confirm most cases of plant poisoning. Other tests, including CT and abdominal scans, may be recommended for serious cases. However, emergency treatment will usually begin immediately following the diagnosis.

Treatment of Sacred Bamboo Poisoning in Cats

Standard treatment for mild cases of plant poisoning will involve inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, and starting intravenous fluid therapy. If persistent vomiting has occurred, your cat may be given antiemetic drugs. For sacred bamboo poisoning in particular, amyl nitrite therapy is usually successful. Breathing in amyl nitrate breaks down cyanide molecules. Your vet may also administer sodium nitrite intravenously, followed by intravenous injection of sodium thiosulfate. These injections may need to be repeated over several hours for severe cases. Vitamin B12 (usually administered to animals via injection) is an antidote for cyanogenic glycoside poisoning.

Gastric lavage may be required for cats that have ingested larger quantities and are experiencing severe symptoms. This process will involve flushing the stomach to clear any toxins remaining. If your cat is comatose or seizing, hospitalization may be required so that the vet can monitor your cat’s condition. For severe cases, treatment will focus on ridding the body of the toxins and resolving specific symptoms.

Recovery of Sacred Bamboo Poisoning in Cats

Recovery and prognosis may vary depending on how much of the sacred bamboo your cat ingested, as well as how quickly poisoning was diagnosed and treated. Most mild cases of plant poisoning with no life-threatening symptoms typically resolve within 24 hours following treatment. Severe cases have a more guarded prognosis.

Mild cases of poisoning that are treated successfully do not usually warrant follow-up appointments. If your cat has experienced severe or life-threatening symptoms, your vet will schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor your cat’s condition.

The bright berries of the sacred bamboo may be appealing to pets. The sacred bamboo is not usually a home or garden plant, so it is more likely your cat may have come into contact with it through outdoor activity. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to limit your cat’s outdoor activity to prevent future poisoning.