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What is Split Leaf Philodendron Poisoning?

Its main toxins are insoluble calcium oxalates, which use an unusual method of causing pain to any animal that consumes it. It may also contain proteinase, depending on the species. Coming from the Araceae family, this plant’s scientific name is Philodendron bipennifolium.

Split leaf philodendron, also called saddle leaf, horsehead philodendron, red princess, cordatum, red emerald, heartleaf philodendron, fruit salad plant, fiddle-leaf and panda plant, is painfully toxic to your cat. 

Symptoms of Split Leaf Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms include:

  • Oral irritation
  • Hoarseness
  • Intense burning of the mouth, tongue, and lips
  • Excessive drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting (if your cat manages to swallow the crystals)
  • Choking and swelling of the tongue
  • Low energy

Eating larger amounts may lead to:

  • Extreme digestive upset
  • Severe breathing difficulty

Although it’s rare, some animals manage to eat massive amounts of split leaf philodendron and their symptoms are even more severe:

  • Renal failure
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Death

While recovery is possible, many animals do suffer from permanent liver and kidney damage.

Causes of Split Leaf Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

When your cat nibbles split leaf philodendron, she encounters insoluble calcium oxalates, which are contained within a special cell called an idioblast. As the cat’s saliva penetrates the idioblast, the saliva begins to make the gelatin inside swell. This causes the idioblast to explode, which forces the calcium oxalate crystals to violently exit the cell, burying themselves deep in your cat’s skin, mouth and tongue. Additionally, some species of the plant contain proteinase, which can cause pain and inflammation and worsen the effects of the calcium oxalate crystals.

Eating any part of the plant can lead to poisoning, though the leaves and stems are most dangerous,particularly when eaten in a large amount.

Diagnosis of Split Leaf Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

It may be easy for you to figure out why your cat is suddenly painfully ill. First, you may see bits of plant matter on and in her mouth and note obvious signs of pain and redness and swelling. Gently wash your cat’s mouth out with cool water and place the bits of plant that are washed out into a plastic bag. Take this to the vet so he can examine them and see if this is what has made your cat sick.

Your vet will give your cat a physical exam, which will include blood work and urinalysis. He may also test the plant sample you brought, along with any samples of vomit. All of this will help your vet to make the correct diagnosis.

If your cat eats a large amount of split leaf philodendron, she may develop kidney failure and go into a coma. You may be able to help you avoid these developments if you get her to the vet as soon as possible.

Treatment of Split Leaf Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

Your vet may give plain yogurt to your cat. This allows your cat to begin getting relief from the burning pain from the crystals that have embedded themselves in your cat’s mouth and face.

If your cat has been experiencing significant episodes of diarrhea and vomiting, your vet may give her intravenous fluid to help rehydrate her. An oral antihistamine may help to reduce any swelling from the plant and its toxins. This medication may be diphenhydramine (Benadryl). 

For stomach upset, your vet may provide Kapectolin, which coats and protects the stomach lining. Your cat may also receive sucralfate, which combines with your cat’s stomach acids, forming a protective paste in her stomach. Should your cat develop breathing difficulty because of airway swelling, she will be monitored until she is breathing normally again.

Recovery of Split Leaf Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

Depending on the amount of split leaf philodendron your cat ate, she should make a good recovery. 

To prevent future cases of poisoning, consider removing the split-leaf philodendron plant from your home. Additionally, you may replace tempting, but poisonous, plants with cat-safe grasses that your cat can lounge in and eat. These grasses include rye, wheat grass and oat grass. Grow several small pots and scatter them throughout your house. Then, rest easy as she finds these cat-friendly greenery she can actually nibble on without getting sick.