What is Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning?

The Swiss cheese plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which penetrate tissue in the cat’s mouth and cause extreme discomfort among other symptoms. Most cats will only take one bite of the plant before losing interest because of its foul taste, however, just one bite is enough to cause this condition.

Swiss cheese plant poisoning is rarely fatal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not serious. In some conditions, it can cause the cat’s airways to swell up, and even if there aren’t any complications, your cat will still be in a great deal of pain. Take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible if you spot the symptoms of Swiss cheese plant poisoning. 

The Swiss cheese plant, also known as the Mexican breadfruit, hurricane plant, or cutleaf philodendron, is often used as a decorative plant in homes and gardens. However, it can be toxic to small animals, including cats, if it is consumed.

Symptoms of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of this condition will typically begin immediately after your cat chews on or consumes the Swiss cheese plant. Some of the most common symptoms of Swiss cheese plant poisoning that you may observe include:

  • Irritation in the oral cavity
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Vomiting

Causes of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Cats

This condition occurs after a cat chews on or consumes any part of the Swiss cheese plant. This plant so dangerous because it contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which are immediately released into the cat’s mouth during consumption. The crystals penetrate tissues in the mouth and cause intense burning and irritation. 

Diagnosis of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Cats

If you see your cat chewing on an unfamiliar plant, or if you spot the symptoms of Swiss cheese plant poisoning, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Help the vet quickly make a diagnosis by bringing in a sample or picture of the plant. If you didn’t witness your cat eating a plant, it could be helpful if you bring in a sample of his vomit, so the vet can identify any regurgitated plant material.

There is no test that will confirm your cat has Swiss cheese plant poisoning. The vet will rely heavily on the information you provide, and the results of a physical examination. A close look at your cat’s mouth will help the vet identify there are crystals lodged into the cat’s tissue. Many plants contain calcium oxalate crystals, so the vet may not be able to tell you that the cat’s condition was caused by a Swiss cheese plant, but he can tell you it was caused by a plant that contains this toxin.

Treatment of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Cats

Your cat is most likely in a great deal of discomfort from the Swiss cheese plant poisoning, so the first part of treatment will focus on making him more comfortable. First, the vet will gently wash your cat’s mouth out and remove any visible crystals. He may also feed your cat dairy products that are high in calcium, such as yogurt, cheese, or milk. These products will reduce the amount of pain your cat is in.

Next, the vet may choose to perform a gastric lavage to remove any toxins that could remain in your cat’s stomach. If the cat has been vomiting excessively, the vet may administer Kapectolin or sucralfate to coat the stomach lining and prevent further irritation. 

Your cat’s condition will need to be closely monitored during treatment. Cats may be dehydrated from excessive vomiting, and in this case, they will need to be hooked up to an IV to receive fluids. Benadryl may also be administered to your cat if the vet thinks he is at risk of swelling. The cat’s airways may begin to swell and cut off his air supply, so Benadryl is used as a preventative measure.

Recovery of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Cats

Swiss cheese plant poisoning may be uncomfortable for cats, but it is rarely fatal. Most cats will be released immediately following treatment, but some may need to stick around to receive more fluids if they are dehydrated.

Talk to your vet about whether you need to change your cat’s diet over the next few days. The cat’s mouth and stomach may be sore from the treatment, so the vet may recommend that you stick to soft foods that won’t cause any irritation. 

If you know which plant caused this condition, make sure you remove it from your home or garden immediately. However, if you’re unsure of how your cat was exposed to the Swiss cheese plant, it’s recommended that you keep your cat indoors as much as possible to prevent further exposure.