What is Spotted Dumb Cane Poisoning?

The spotted dumb cane plant is toxic and potentially dangerous to your cat. One of its toxins are insoluble calcium oxalates, which have highly painful effects. Depending on the exact variety of dumb cane, it may also have a proteolytic enzyme that can cause pain and inflammation and exacerbate the effect of calcium oxalate crystals.

Spotted dumb cane is also known by several other names: exotica perfection, charming dieffenbachia, exotica, giant dumb cane, tropic snow and dumbcane. The plant belongs to the Dieffenbachia genus within the Araceae family.

Symptoms of Spotted Dumb Cane Poisoning in Cats

Almost as soon as your cat ingests any part of spotted dumb cane, she will begin showing signs of pain:

  • Oral irritation
  • Obvious irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue
  • Intense burning and pain
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Protruding tongue
  • Choking
  • Throat swelling
  • Head shaking
  • Eye irritation or blindness (if crystals touch the eyes)

These symptoms can last for up to two weeks.

In larger doses, your cat may develop:

  • Severe digestive upset
  • Shallow, rapid breathing (dyspnea)

In massive doses, spotted dumb cane can also cause your cat to experience:

  • Convulsions
  • Renal failure 
  • Liver failure
  • Coma 
  • Death

Causes of Spotted Dumb Cane Poisoning in Cats

Once your cat bites into the spotted dumb cane, the calcium oxalates explode out of the gelatin that contains them. As those calcium oxalates (crystals) fly violently out, they embed themselves into your cat’s mouth, lips, face and tongue, causing intense pain. If ingested, the crystals will have the same painful effect on the cat’s digestive tract.

Diagnosis of Spotted Dumb Cane Poisoning in Cats

Once your cat has ingested even a little bit of spotted dumb cane, she will be in obvious and nearly immediate pain. She may show irritation of her mouth, lips and tongue, which may be swollen and red. She may develop diarrhea and vomiting. And, if she has eaten a large amount of the plant, she may develop breathing problems, and kidney and liver failure.

It’s vital to get your cat to the vet immediately, just as soon as you know she is sick. If you see plant matter in or on her mouth, gently wash it off with cool water and bag the plant bits you find. This may help your vet to determine the cause of your cat’s illness.

In the office, your vet will give your cat a full physical, including running blood work. Depending on your cat’s physical symptoms, your vet will decide what treatments she needs. If you did bring a sample of spotted dumb cane with you, give these to the vet so he can have them tested. This allows him to know exactly what your cat ate.

Treatment of Spotted Dumb Cane Poisoning in Cats

In the vet’s office, your cat will be observed to make sure symptoms don’t get worse (breathing issues, liver and kidney issues). Her mouth may be washed with water to remove any remaining plant material.

Your vet may give Benadryl to your cat, which helps to reduce inflammation and swelling. If her stomach is upset, she will receive Kapectolin to coat her stomach and protect the lining. Sucralfate, which reacts with her stomach acids by forming a paste, may be administered to also coat the stomach.

If the managed to eat a large amount of spotted dumb cane, your doctor will monitor your cat’s breathing. If she has difficulty, he will give her supplemental oxygen until her breathing returns to normal, either via flow-by or an oxygen cage. If her breathing difficulties are severe, she may be intubated until her airway swelling goes down.

Recovery of Spotted Dumb Cane Poisoning in Cats

Depending on the amount of spotted dumb cane your cat eats, she may experience pain, stomach upset and diarrhea only or she may experience breathing problems and go into renal and liver failure.

It is possible for your cat to recover from spotted dumb cane poisoning, as long as you get her to the vet as soon as you know something’s wrong. Of course, her symptoms depend on how much she ate. Because this plant has such painful consequences, it’s difficult for any animal to eat very much of it. This makes recovery a much likelier possibility for your cat.