Saddle Leaf Poisoning in Cats

Saddle Leaf Poisoning in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Saddle Leaf Poisoning?

Saddle leaf poisoning is generally not life-threatening, but ingesting the plant can cause discomfort for your cat. Take your cat to the vet if you believe it has ingested any part of the saddle leaf plant in any quantity.

The saddle leaf is a common type of house and garden plant that is toxic to dogs and cats. The saddle leaf is a member of the Araceae family. Many plants within this family, including the saddle leaf, contain insoluble calcium oxalates, which are the primary toxin in the plant. Recognize the saddle leaf by its tear-shaped, waxy leaves and thin stems.

Symptoms of Saddle Leaf Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms associated with saddle leaf poisoning are normally moderate and appear rapidly following ingestion. If you notice any of the following symptoms, take your cat to the vet as soon you can to relieve their discomfort:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Signs of oral irritation
  • Swelling of the lips or tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Loss of appetite


The saddle leaf is known by several different names, including:

  • Philodendron bipennifolium
  • Split leaf Philodendron
  • Horsehead philodendron
  • Heartleaf philodendron
  • Dumbcane
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Cordatum
  • Panda plant
  • Fruit salad plant
  • Red emerald
  • Red princess
  • Fiddle leaf

Causes of Saddle Leaf Poisoning in Cats

The cause of saddle leaf poisoning is ingestion of the plant. Due to the nature of the toxin, saddle leaf poisoning is not usually severe. When your cat chews the leaves of the plant, insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are released. These crystals injure the oral tissues, resulting in irritation, which feels like tiny pin pricks throughout the mouth. Your cat does not have to swallow any part of the plant to become poisoned. It is unlikely your cat will ingest large quantities of the saddle leaf because symptoms and discomfort manifest rapidly and deter it from eating more of the plant material. Take your cat to the vet to relieve its pain.

Diagnosis of Saddle Leaf Poisoning in Cats

If the saddle leaf is your own home or garden plant, take a sample of it with you when you go to see the vet. Always let your vet know how long your cat has been experiencing symptoms, as well as how much of the plant your cat ingested if you know.

Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination to ensure no swelling of the upper airway has occurred to cause difficulty breathing. Standard procedure to confirm plant poisoning is taking blood and urine tests. Other tests are not usually required to confirm poisoning by plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals.

Treatment of Saddle Leaf Poisoning in Cats

Treatment for saddle leaf poisoning is straightforward and will begin immediately following the diagnosis. Your vet will first rinse your cat’s mouth with water to clear any remaining insoluble calcium oxalate crystals from the oral cavity. Your vet may prescribe antihistamines to reduce oral swelling. Though ingestion of smaller quantities does not normally affect the neurological system, your vet may carry out a neurological exam to ensure no damage has occurred.

If large quantities of the plant have been ingested, your vet will recommend treatment based on your cat’s symptoms. Dietary changes may be recommended in all cases of saddle leaf poisoning, as the ingestion of plants could be indicative that your cat is not receiving adequate nutrition.

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Recovery of Saddle Leaf Poisoning in Cats

Recovery and prognosis of saddle leaf poisoning in cats is generally good to excellent following treatment. Cats that have experienced mild cases of plant poisoning typically make a full recovery within 24 hours following treatment. In extremely rare cases of severe saddle leaf poisoning, the prognosis may be guarded based on symptoms present.

Follow-up appointments are not usually necessary following treatment of saddle leaf poisoning. Your vet may schedule follow-up appointments on an as-needed basis if your cat has ingested larger quantities of the saddle leaf and experienced severe or neurological symptoms.

If your cat became poisoned by the saddle leaf while outside, you may want to limit or monitor them while they are outside to prevent future cases of poisoning. Although the symptoms of saddle leaf poisoning are generally quite moderate, you should get remove the saddle leaf plant immediately if it is your own home or garden plant. Never assume your cat cannot reach a plant because you place it in what you believe is a hard-to-reach area. Always research plants before making any purchases to ensure they do not contain toxins.

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