What is Tail Flower Poisoning?

The tail flower contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which are released into the cat’s mouth during consumption. They have the power to tear through tissues in the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract, which causes a great deal of discomfort for the cat. Immediately following exposure, your cat may begin to paw at his mouth, drool, or vomit.

Although tail flower poisoning is typically not fatal, it can lead to serious health complications including dehydration and swelling in the airway. To protect your cat, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible once you spot the symptoms of this condition. 

The tail flower, which is also known as the flamingo lily, oilcloth flower, pigtail plant, painter’s pallet, and flamingo flower, are beautiful flowers with large green leaves and bright red or pink flowers. This plant can be toxic to cats, so it is best to keep it out of your home and garden if you have a cat.

Symptoms of Tail Flower Poisoning in Cats

The symptoms of tail flower poisoning will begin immediately after your cat chews on or consumes part of the plant. Some of the most common symptoms that you may observe include:

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

Causes of Tail Flower Poisoning in Cats

This condition occurs after your cat chews on or consumes any part of the tail flower plant. When a cat bites into the plant, insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are released into the cat’s mouth. These toxic crystals penetrate through tissue in the oral cavity and cause a tremendous amount of discomfort.

Diagnosis of Tail Flower Poisoning in Cats

If you notice your cat chewing on a tail flower, or if he starts to exhibit symptoms of tail flower poisoning, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If possible, bring either a sample or photo of the plant so your vet can easily identify the problem. If you did not see your cat eating a plant, it could be helpful to bring in a sample of the vomit instead, as it may contain regurgitated plant material.

There is not a test to diagnose tail flower poisoning. However, vets should be able to identify the issue based on the results of a physical examination along with your description of the symptoms you have observed. During the physical examination, the vet should be able to spot irritation in the oral cavity, which indicates exposure to insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. But, many plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, so the vet may not know which plant caused the condition even if he identifies the presence of these crystals.

Treatment of Tail Flower Poisoning in Cats

Treatment will begin right away following a diagnosis. The vet will begin by thoroughly washing out your cat’s mouth to help relieve any discomfort he is feeling from the crystals. If your cat appears uncomfortable, the vet may feed him foods that are high in calcium, such as yogurts, cheese, or milk, which can help ease the pain. 

The vet may also perform a gastric lavage, which is a stomach wash that can flush toxic materials out of your cat’s stomach. Kapectolin or sucralfate can also be administered. These medications form a thick paste and coat the stomach lining to prevent irritation. The vet will usually administer these medications if your cat is still vomiting from the poisoning.

In some conditions, exposure to insoluble calcium oxalate crystals can cause swelling. The vet can administer Benadryl to prevent this from occurring and affecting the cat’s airway and ability to breathe.

Throughout the treatment, the vet will need to carefully monitor your cat’s condition. It’s possible your cat could become dehydrated as a result of excessive vomiting. If this happens to your cat, he will need to receive fluids intravenously.

Recovery of Tail Flower Poisoning in Cats

Tail flower poisoning is rarely fatal, so your cat should make a full recovery immediately following treatment. Unless your cat suffered complications due to dehydration or swelling, he should be released to you right away. 

Before bringing your cat home, talk to the vet about whether you need to make any temporary changes to his diet. Your cat’s mouth and stomach could be irritated as a result of the crystals, so it may be best to stick to soft foods while he recovers. 

Be sure to remove any tail flower plants from your home and garden. If you don’t have any in your home or garden, it’s possible your cat could have been exposed to it in a neighbor’s yard. To avoid further exposure, it’s best to keep your cat indoors as much as possible.