What is Solomon's Lily Poisoning?

The entirety of the Solomon's lily plant contains toxic insoluble calcium oxalates, which cause a painful reaction in most mammals, including cats. These sharp crystals are contained in raphides that are packed by gelatinous material within idioblasts in the plant. When the plant is chewed, the raphides shoot the calcium oxalate crystals into the tissues of the mouth, esophagus and eventually the digestive system, causing intense pain and irritation. In response to these toxins, the body may form an immune reaction resulting in swelling, which can be great enough to interfere with a cat's breathing. Large amounts of plant consumption can even lead to organ failure and death in extreme cases. The plant has long been used as a part of traditional Israeli medicine for its powerful health effects in humans.

Solomon's lily is a perennial plant native to the Middle East that is scientifically known as the Arum palaestinum. It is also called black calla, Palestine Arum, wild calla, or wild arum. This plant can not survive frost but may be kept potted in containers. It can be found growing wild in warmer regions of the United States. Reaching as high as 15”, Solomon's lily first emerges from the ground in the fall. The large leaves, which are trowel-like in shape, grow from singular stems. Blooms do not appear until the spring months, manifesting as large, velvety flowers made up of one large sheath. They are purple-black in color. The fragrance of these flowers resembles fermenting fruit, and attracts flies for pollination. Seeds eventually form in hard, brown casings. 

Symptoms of Solomon's Lily Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of poisoning from Solomon's lily ingestion will usually show within two hours, if not immediately. Eating small amounts generally results in gastrointestinal upset and irritation, while consuming large amounts can lead to severe organ failure. All signs to watch for are listed as follows:

  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Oral irritation
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Cardiac abnormalities
  • Dilated pupils
  • Coma

Causes of Solomon's Lily Poisoning in Cats

A cat may come into contact with this plant while roaming neighborhood gardens. This plant may be kept in pots on patios throughout the summer. Some may winter Solomon's lily indoors to protect it from frost. It has become naturalized in northern California and may be found growing in forests or other rural areas. As this plant causes intense burning upon consumption, most cats are dissuaded from eating more than one bite.

Diagnosis of Solomon's Lily Poisoning in Cats

If your cat begins to show symptoms of Solomon's lily poisoning, take it to your veterinarian to be looked at. If severe signs have developed, treat the situation as an emergency and rush the cat to the nearest clinic or animal hospital. Treatment to stabilize the animal may begin before a diagnosis has been made. The veterinarian may require the cat's full medical history to help identify potential causes of illness or possible complications from the episode. You may be asked if you allow your cat outdoors, if you witnessed it eating any plant material, and what type of plants you keep in or around your home. 

The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination of the cat, looking for all signs of illness that may be present. The cat's vital functions will be measured, including its blood pressure and temperature. A stethoscope will likely be used to listen to the cat's breathing and heartbeat. Blood samples will be needed from the cat so that tests may be run to monitor levels within the bloodstream. These tests generally involve a complete blood count and a biochemical profile, and may reveal if the cat is low in electrolytes which is a sign of dehydration. Urinalysis may be needed to determine how the liver and kidneys are functioning.

Treatment of Solomon's Lily Poisoning in Cats

The cat will need to be monitored to assess the severity of the poisoning. Emergency care may be necessary in some instances. Hospitalization will be required until the cat's breathing becomes normal.

Fluid Therapy 

Extensive periods of vomiting or diarrhea may lead to the cat becoming dehydrated. Fluids and electrolytes may be administered to the cat intravenously to help bring fluid volumes back to normal.

Medication 

Various medications may be given to the cat throughout the episode to ease symptoms. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine may be administered to reduce swelling and open the cat's airways. Kapectolin or sucralfate can be given to reduce internal irritation in the stomach.

Recovery of Solomon's Lily Poisoning in Cats

In most cases, only a small amount of plant material is consumed. The prognosis in this situation is good, with most cats making a full recovery within a day. If a large amount of Solomon's lily has been eaten, symptoms may continue for up to two weeks with permanent damage to the liver and kidneys likely. Death from eating this plant may occur but is rarely reported.

To prevent your cat from consuming Solomon's lily, be sure to keep it out of your cat's reach, or remove it from the home completely. The only way to stop your cat from contacting the plant outdoors is by choosing to keep your cat indoors where it can be monitored.