What is Snake Lily Poisoning?

Snake lilies contain irisin and pentacyclic terpenoids, which are two toxins that irritate the cat’s stomach and intestines. In the hours following consumption, your cat may begin to exhibit symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Your cat will need to be treated right away if you want to avoid complications such as kidney failure and seizures. Take your cat to a veterinarian for treatment the moment you begin to see any of the symptoms of snake lily poisoning.

The snake lily plant, which is also known as the iris, water flag, yellow flag, yellow water iris, and western blue flag, is known for its bright colors and bold shape. It is often used as a decorative plant in both homes and gardens, however, many people are unaware that this plant is extremely toxic to cats.

Symptoms of Snake Lily Poisoning in Cats

The severity of the symptoms your cat exhibits will depend on the amount of snake lily that he has consumed. Symptoms will usually begin soon after he has ingested the plant, but it may take up to 12 hours for the symptoms to appear. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Internal bleeding in the stomach and small intestine

Causes of Snake Lily Poisoning in Cats

Snake lily poisoning occurs when your cat consumes any part of the snake lily plant. This plant contains irisin and pentacyclic terpenoids, which are toxins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and irritation. Although every part of the plant is toxic to cats, the highest concentration of toxins is found in the bulb. 

Diagnosis of Snake Lily Poisoning in Cats

If you see your cat eating or chewing on a snake lily plant, or if you begin to notice symptoms of snake lily poisoning, take him to a vet as soon as possible. If you can, try to bring in either a photo or cutting of the plant or a sample of the cat’s vomit so the vet can try to identify what could be causing the symptoms. Describe the symptoms in as much detail as possible, including when they began and how often your cat has been vomiting or experiencing bouts of diarrhea.

There is no test that can be used to diagnose snake lily poisoning, so the vet may rely solely on the symptoms you have described in order to make a diagnosis. In other cases, he could use an endoscope to examine the stomach cavity and look for foreign objects, such as plant matter, that could explain the observed symptoms. This condition often causes stomach bleeding, so an endoscope will help the vet identify this as well.

Treatment of Snake Lily Poisoning in Cats

Treatment will need to begin immediately following the diagnosis to prevent health complications such as kidney failure and seizures, both of which can be caused by the toxins present in snake lilies. First, the vet will need to induce vomiting by orally administering a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to the cat. He will also administer activated charcoal, which will absorb any of the toxins that are still in your cat’s stomach before they enter into the bloodstream.

If your cat is dehydrated from vomiting, the vet can administer fluids through an IV until his condition has stabilized. If the plant material has already passed through the stomach, the vet may choose to give your cat an enema or laxative to flush out the intestines and remove as much of the toxins as possible.

The vet may administer Kaopectin or sucralfate to your cat. These medications will coat the stomach’s lining and prevent further irritation or vomiting. 

In extreme cases, when the toxins have already started to affect the kidneys, the vet may need to perform dialysis in order to save the cat. This is rare and only found in cats who have been poisoned without receiving treatment for days.

Recovery of Snake Lily Poisoning in Cats

The sooner you take your cat in for treatment, the better chance he has of making a full recovery. If you allow days to pass by before you get your cat treatment, it’s possible he may not survive if the poisoning has already caused kidney failure.

Cats may need to stay with the vet for a few hours after treatment so the vet can continue to monitor their condition. However, most cats will be released to the owner quickly.

Talk to your vet about what you should feed your cat in the days following treatment. Your cat’s stomach and intestines may be sensitive, so it may be best to feed him softer foods until he has regained his strength.

Remove any snake lilies from your home and garden immediately. If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors, consider keeping him indoors to limit his exposure to the plant.