What is Snake Plant Poisoning?

The snake plant contains toxic saponins capable of causing illness in a cat. The plant has these toxins as natural insecticides and fungicides. Generally, only a mild reaction will occur from snake plant consumption. Saponins can be found in all parts of the plant, and contact with the juices may cause irritation to the skin. The only serious threat that this plant poses is a potentially severe allergic reaction that could lead to swelling of the oral and esophageal tissues. Snake plants have an interesting way of processing air, often being kept in the home for their air purifying qualities.

The snake plant, or Sansevieria trifasciata, as it is scientifically known, is an evergreen perennial belonging to the Agavaceae family of plants. Due to its impressively long leaves and its ease to cultivate, the snake plant is a very common houseplant. The snake plant grows like a grass, spreading with rhizomes at a rapid rate. This makes the plant more suitable for containers than garden beds. Also contributing to this theory is the fact that snake plant is not frost hardy. The leaves of the plant grow tall, reaching up to 3 feet in height. They are wide and blade-like in shape and come in a variety of patterns of greens and yellows. This plant may be known as mother-in-law’s tongue, magic sword, and good luck plant, depending what region you are from.

Symptoms of Snake Plant Poisoning in Cats

The most common symptoms to arise after ingestion of the snake plant are related to the gastrointestinal tract. The illness that results from snake plant consumption is usually not severe. Signs to watch for include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, and mouth

Causes of Snake Plant Poisoning in Cats

This plant is likely to be found in a pot or container both indoors and outdoors. Cats who are more curious natured or who are still kittens may be more prone to sampling the snake plant. Most animals do not return for a second bite, as the plant is bitter in taste and results in an immediate burning sensation to the mouth. 

Diagnosis of Snake Plant Poisoning in Cats

If your cat begins to show signs of poisoning or allergic reaction, take it to your veterinarian to be assessed professionally. You may notice plant material in your cat's mouth, or see visible bite marks out of the leaves of the plant. Bring the cat's full medical history to the clinic as this can assist the vet in determining potential causes of illness or complications that may arise. The vet may ask you what type of plants your keep in or around your home, and if your cat is allowed outdoors.

The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination of the cat, looking for any abnormalities that may have caused or been caused by the illness. All of the cat's vital functions will be measured, including its blood pressure and temperature. A sample of the cat's blood will be collected so that standard tests may be run, revealing the cat's overall health condition. A complete blood count and a biochemistry profile are generally included in these tests. Normal results may point to an allergic reaction within the cat. Urinalysis may also be needed to see how internal organs are functioning.

Treatment of Snake Plant Poisoning in Cats

There is no specific course of treatment for snake plant poisoning, so symptoms will likely be treated as they arise. Some cases may not require any treatment while others may merit a short hospital stay.

Remove Plant Material 

This may be done by flushing the mouth with water to remove any bits of leaves in the oral cavity. Emesis (vomit induction) or gastric lavage (stomach pumping) may be used to empty the contents of the stomach to prevent further digestion of toxins.

Supportive Care 

During the period of illness, certain care options can be used to promote healing in the cat. If the cat has become dehydrated from excessive vomiting or diarrhea, intravenous fluids may be used. Medications to soothe the stomach or antihistamines to reduce swelling and open airways may also be administered.

Recovery of Snake Plant Poisoning in Cats

Cats who have ingested snake plant are expected to make a full recovery within a day or two. Poisoning from this plant is very unlikely to cause death. Be sure to move the plant to an area in your home that your cat cannot reach. Some people chose to remove the snake plant from their home as an extra precaution. The only way to protect your cat from toxic plants growing outdoors is by keeping your cat indoors where you have full control of what they are exposed to.