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What is Sweet Potato Vine Poisoning?

Although the sweet potato itself is not toxic to felines, the vines of the sweet potato plant contain the toxic principle LSD. Consuming a small portion of the sweet potato vine can cause a dermatitis-type reaction, causing the cat’s skin, mouth or throat to blister and swell upon contact. However, if the feline consumes a larger amount of the vine or if the vine is harvesting mold, the feline will display clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, and hallucinations.

The sweet potato vine is a member of the Convolvulaceae family and is known throughout the world by its scientific name, Ipomoea batatas. The sweet potato is a popular garden plant, producing tubular edible roots that have a mildly sweet taste. The sweet potatoes themselves are orange-brown in coloration and grow underground. Only the vines and lime green or purple lobed leaves can be seen above ground. 

Symptoms of Sweet Potato Vine Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of sweet potato vine poisoning in cats depend on the condition of the plant and the quantity of plant vegetation the feline consumed. If the feline only consumed a small portion of the sweet potato vine, the skin will redden, swell and blister similar to that of an allergic reaction. If a larger portion of the sweet potato vine was consumed, the feline may begin to vomit, develop diarrhea, and hallucinate. 

Causes of Sweet Potato Vine Poisoning in Cats

Sweet potato vine poisoning in cats is caused by the ingestion of the vegetation of the sweet potato plant. Although the root of the sweet potato vine is non-toxic and even edible, the leaves and stem of the sweet potato vine contain LSD. The psychedelic drug, LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide, is well-known for its psychological effects. LSD is not addictive but will cause the feline to experience hallucinations and anxiety. 

Diagnosis of Sweet Potato Vine Poisoning in Cats

Without witnessing your cat eating from a sweet potato plant, diagnosing poisoning may be difficult. Your veterinarian will seek to rule out possible causes of your feline’s condition that could cause similar symptoms to sweet potato vine poisoning. A physical examination, review of the feline’s medical history, and a consultation with the pet owner will be part of the diagnostic process. The veterinarian may also conduct a series of tests to confirm or rule out various conditions: 

  • CBC (complete blood cell count)
  • Biochemical profile (blood work) 
  • Blood smear test 
  • Urinalysis (examination of urine) 
  • Fecal floatation test
  • Fecal examination 
  • Abdominal ultrasound and/or x-ray 

Treatment of Sweet Potato Vine Poisoning in Cats

Felines affected by sweet potato vine poisoning may require veterinary attention to induce vomiting and replenish fluids. An emetic drug will likely be administered to encourage the feline to vomit and remove undigested sweet potato vine vegetation from the upper digestive system. If the stomach has suffered irritation from consuming the plant, the veterinarian may administer Kapectolin, a product that provides a thick coating to the stomach wall. Finally, the cat may receive intravenous fluids to counter dehydration.

Recovery of Sweet Potato Vine Poisoning in Cats

The toxic effects of a sweet potato vine poisoning in cats are short-lived, lasting only a few hours after the occurrence of vomiting or diarrhea. Without further exposure to the plant, the feline will make a full recovery in a few short hours. Your veterinarian will likely ask you to encourage the feline to consume a larger amount of water than usual to further eliminate the toxin from the body for the day of toxic intake, but activities should return to normal. To prevent a future toxic occurrence in the future, cover your sweet potato vine plants in the garden with cages or fence the area around your garden. If you do not grow sweet potato vines yourself, keep your cat indoors or in the yard during the growing and harvest season.