What is Stinking Chamomile Poisoning?

A member of the Asteraceae family, the stinking chamomile plant is known throughout the world by its scientific name; Anthemis cotula. The plant produces a yellow disk flower surrounded by 12 to 20 silver-white pedals. The plant can grow to 8 to 12 inches tall with a fibrous root that grows near the surface of the soil. The stinking chamomile plant looks almost identical to the sweet smelling, herbal flower chamomile, but the stinking chamomile is well named, as this plant has a pungent aroma. 

Stinking chamomile is generally not harmful to cats in small doses, but can cause severe effects to felines if large amount are ingested or if the plant is consumed over a long period of time. Stinking chamomile contains a variety of potentially harmful substances including fatty acids, phenolic acids, choline, anthemic acid, chamazulene, bisabolol and flavonoids. These toxic substances cause felines to develop clinical signs of an allergic reaction, anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, contact dermatitis (an allergy of the skin when coming into contact with an irritating substance) and/or bleeding tendencies if consumed over a long period of time. 

Symptoms of Stinking Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

Stinking chamomile poisoning in cats causes clinical signs of:

  • Anorexia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting 
  • Contact dermatitis

In most incidences, felines develop an allergic reaction to the plant’s toxic components, however, long-term use of stinking chamomile can cause the feline to develop bleeding tendencies. 

Causes of Stinking Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

Stinking chamomile poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestion of all portions of the stinking chamomile plant, including the stem, leaves, petals, roots, and pollen. The toxic components of the plant are terpenoids including chamazulene and bisabolol, flavonoids including apigenin, luteolin, as well as quercetin. The chamomile-type plant also contains coumarin, scopoletin-7-glucoside and other constituents of angelic and tiglic acid esters, anthemic acid, choline, phenolic and fatty acids. 

Diagnosis of Stinking Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

Diagnosing stinking chamomile plant poisoning in cats is difficult as there is no specific test available for identifying this type of toxicity. Your veterinarian’s diagnosis will be based on ruling out other possible causes of your feline’s symptoms; if your cat was known to ingest stinking chamomile plant material, this information can speed up diagnosis and treatment. 

Your vet will conduct a physical examination and review the feline’s medical history, and may request a number of diagnostic tests, such as: 

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile (blood work) 
  • Blood smear test 
  • Urinalysis (examination of urine) 
  • Fecal floatation test
  • Fecal examination 

Treatment of Stinking Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

Stinking chamomile poisoning in cats is treated by removing the plant from the feline to prevent further ingestion and eliminating the toxins from the cat’s body. As oral irritation is common, the cat’s mouth will be flushed out with distilled water and an emetic drug will be administered to encourage the feline to vomit. Activated charcoal will likely be administered by the veterinarian. Activated charcoal will bind with the toxic agent and prevent the body from further absorption of the plant chemicals. If the stomach has undergone irritation from consuming the stinking chamomile plant, the veterinarian may administer Kapectolin, a product that provides a thick coating to the stomach wall, and/or sucralfate, to reduce the stomach acid inside the stomach and prevent high acidity from corroding the stomach’s mucosal layer. The feline may also receive intravenous fluids to correct dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea.

Recovery of Stinking Chamomile Poisoning in Cats

The prognosis for stinking chamomile poisoning in cats is generally good to excellent. Most cats will begin to show signs of improvement within an hour of treatment and make a full recovery after 24 hours. As with all plant toxicity cases, the earlier the feline is admitted to the veterinary hospital, the greater chance she/he has of making a full recovery.