What is Spanish Thyme Poisoning?

If your cat’s fur makes contact with the leaves or flowers, the essential oils can burn its skin. If she eats this plant, she will develop stomach upset and diarrhea. You need to be particularly careful of the essential oils coming into contact with your cat. If this happens, you cat can develop respiratory issues (depressed breathing), which may be fatal.

The essential oils from Spanish thyme are capable of being absorbed into your cat’s system, which means your cat can become ill very quickly. Your cat’s digestive system lacks a specific digestive enzyme, called UGT1A6. This enzyme helps to break down toxins in the liver. As those toxins build up, your cat becomes increasingly ill.

Spanish thyme contains essential oils that are toxic to cats. This plant is also known as coleus, Indian borage, country borage, bread and butter plant, stinging thyme and East Indian thyme, as well as other names.

Spanish thyme is believed to hold medicinal properties to humans. These properties don’t extend to cats, so it’s best to keep your cat away from this plant if you have it in your home.

Symptoms of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Cats

Once your cat has come into contact with Spanish thyme, it may develop the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting (may be bloody)
  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Strange behavior
  • Drooling
  • Physical weakness and lethargy
  • Pawing at face and mouth
  • Red skin under cat’s fur
  • Visible burns on face, gums, tongue
  • Bodily tremors
  • Cat has difficulty walking
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia) 
  • Depressed breathing

Causes of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Cats

Spanish thyme poisoning can be caused by cats making contact with or ingesting any part of the plant. Curiosity and boredom can lead cats to try something new, and if a cat has easy access to dangerous plants indoors and outdoors, it may encounter a toxic plant such as Spanish thyme.

Because of this plant’s medicinal properties, you may not want to get rid of Spanish Thyme if you grow it. If so, be careful to develop ways of cat-proofing this particular plant.

Diagnosis of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Cats

You may catch your cat nibbling at your Spanish thyme or rubbing up against the leaves and flowers. If so, get your pet to the vet right away. Poisoning symptoms develop quickly and your cat will need to be diagnosed and treated as fast as possible.

In the vet’s office, you cat may already be symptomatic, vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. Bring a plant sample with you, as well as samples of your cat’s stool and vomit, if possible. 

Your vet will give your cat a full physical, including taking blood and urine samples. These samples help the vet to establish just what is making your cat so ill.

Because your cat can develop respiratory symptoms quickly, you need to get to the vet in less than three hours from the time she made contact with your plant. If you’re able to do so and she gets treatment right away, her chances of recovery are much higher than if diagnosis and treatment are delayed.

Treatment of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Cats

Even though your cat can get very sick pretty quickly, don’t attempt first aid at home. Essential oils found in Spanish thyme can make typical treatments  dangerous and worsen your cat’s condition.

Once your vet knows your cat ate Spanish thyme, she will give treatments that reduce your cat’s natural urge to vomit. This treatment is an anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medication. Inducing vomiting in Spanish thyme toxicity cases may be dangerous for your cat. 

Your cat will also receive intravenous fluids, rehydrating her and allowing your vet to monitor her condition closely. If your cat is having trouble breathing, she will be given supplemental oxygen.

If your cat ingested the plant, the essential oils may have irritated or burned her skin, tongue, mouth and gums. If she has been burned, she will need treatment, which will require her to stay in the vet’s office overnight, especially if the irritation to her mucous membranes and the burns to her skin are severe.

Recovery of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Cats

The faster you get veterinary treatment for your cat after she has eaten Spanish thyme, the higher her chances are for a full recovery. If you don’t get her in for treatment within three hours, she is more likely to develop kidney and liver damage, which may lead to fatal complications.

If she ate only a small amount of Spanish thyme, your cat has a better chance of recovery than if she ate a larger amount, in which case her symptoms may include liver and kidney damage. Even if she ate a large amount of this plant, but you get her to the vet within three hours, her chances of recovery will still be good.