What is Shatavari Poisoning?

A member of the Liliaceae family, the shatavari plant is known throughout the world by its scientific name, Asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri. The shatavari is known by many common names including: racemose asparagus, lace fern, plumosa fern, sprengeri fern, emerald fern, emerald feather and asparagus. The Shatavari is a small shrub plant is brightly green in coloration and produces small berries. The shatavari is originally found in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, but has become a popular household plant across North America.  

Shatavari is generally not harmful to cats in small doses, but can cause severe effects to felines if large amount are ingested or if the plant is consumed over a long period of time. Shatavari contains sapogenins that cause great irritation to the feline’s mouth, stomach and lower digestive system. These toxic sapogenins cause the feline to develop clinical signs of an allergic reaction, anorexia, diarrhea vomiting, contact dermatitis (an allergy of the skin when coming into contact with an irritating substance) if consumed over a long period of time. 

Symptoms of Shatavari Poisoning in Cats

Shatavari poisoning in cats will cause allergic dermatitis after repeated exposure of the plant making contact with the feline’s skin. If the feline ingests the berries of the shatavari plant, the feline will develop clinical signs of anorexia, diarrhea, and vomiting. In most incidences, felines develop an allergic reaction to the plant’s toxic components, however, long term use of shatavari can cause the feline to develop abdominal pain.

Causes of Shatavari Poisoning in Cats

Shatavari poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestions of all portions of the shatavari plant including the stem, leaves, petals, roots, pollen, and berries. The toxic components of the shatavari plant are sapogenins that cause great irritation to the feline’s mouth, stomach, and lower digestive system.  

Diagnosis of Shatavari Poisoning in Cats

Unless you witnessed your cat eating from a shatavari plant, your veterinarian’s diagnosis will be based on ruling out other possible causes of your feline’s condition. A vet will conduct a physical examination and review the feline’s medical history. It will be important for you to inform the veterinarian about your feline’s recent activities and possible exposure to the shatavari plant or berries, as this information will aid in ruling out other possible causes. A number of diagnostic tests may be used to identify and/or evaluate your cat’s condition:

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile 
  • Blood smear test 
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal floatation test
  • Fecal examination 

Treatment of Shatavari Poisoning in Cats

Shatavari poisoning in cats is treated by preventing further ingestion of the plant and eliminating the toxins from the cat’s body. The cat’s mouth will be flushed out with distilled water and an emetic drug will be administered to encourage the feline to vomit. Activated charcoal will likely be administered by the veterinarian to bind with toxins and eliminate them via the digestive tract. 

If the stomach has undergone irritation from consuming the shatavari plant, the veterinarian may administer Kapectolin, a product that provides a thick coating to the stomach wall. The veterinarian may also administer sucralfate, which works with the stomach acid to form a paste-like coating between the stomach contents and the stomach’s soft tissues. Intravenous fluids may be provided to restore hydration.

Recovery of Shatavari Poisoning in Cats

The prognosis for shatavari poisoning in cats is generally good to excellent. Most cats will begin to show signs of improvement within an hour of treatment and make a full recovery after 24 hours. As with all plant toxicity cases, the earlier the feline is admitted to the veterinary hospital, the greater chance she or he has of making a full recovery.