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What is Taro Poisoning?

The taro plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which can rip through soft tissue in the mouth, throat, and stomach. These crystals are released into your cat’s mouth when he chews on or eats the plant, and he will immediately begin to feel discomfort. Your cat may start to paw at his mouth or vomit after eating taro.

Although taro poisoning is not usually fatal, it can lead to serious health complications. Protect your cat by taking him to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible after you spot the signs of taro poisoning.

The taro plant, which is also known as caladium, elephant’s ears, and malanga, is known for its large green leaves that often have a bright pink color in the center. Taro is usually used as a decorative plant in landscaping, and is loved by homeowners everywhere because of its dense foliage and majestic leaves. However, taro can be poisonous to cats.

Symptoms of Taro Poisoning in Cats

If your cat bites into or eats a part of the taro plant, he will most likely begin to exhibit symptoms of poisoning right away. Some of the symptoms you should be on the lookout for include:

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

Causes of Taro Poisoning in Cats

This type of poisoning is caused by exposure to the taro plant. If your cat consumes any amount of taro, he or she may suffer from this condition. The taro plant toxic because it contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which are released into the mouth when the plant is consumed. These crystals tear through soft tissue in the mouth, throat, and stomach, leaving your cat in pain.

Diagnosis of Taro Poisoning in Cats

As soon as you see your cat eating a taro plant, you should take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible, along with a sample or picture of the plant. If you did not witness your cat eating a plant but have started to observe the symptoms of poisoning, it may be helpful to bring in a sample of the cat’s vomit. It’s very likely the vomit will contain regurgitated plant material that will help the vet quickly make a diagnosis.

Because there is no test to confirm taro poisoning, the vet will rely heavily on the information you provide as well as the results of a physical examination. During the exam, the vet should notice signs of irritation in the mouth and throat, which indicate the cat has been exposed to a plant with insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. The vet may choose to use an endoscope to examine the cat’s stomach and see the extent of the irritation. 

Treatment of Taro Poisoning in Cats

Taro poisoning can put your cat in a great deal of pain, so treatment will begin right away after a diagnosis. The vet will begin by thoroughly washing out your cat’s mouth. He may also feed him foods that are rich in calcium, such as yogurt or cheese, as these can relieve some of the discomfort.

If there are signs of irritation in the stomach, the vet can perform a gastric lavage, which is the medical term for stomach wash. If your cat has been vomiting, the vet can also administer Kapectolin or sucralfate to coat the stomach and prevent further irritation. 

One of the side effects of exposure to insoluble calcium oxalate crystals is swelling. This may not seem serious, but it could cause your cat’s airway to swell and obstruct breathing. The vet can prevent this problem by administering a dose of Benadryl.

Your cat will need to be monitored during treatment to look for signs of dehydration. If he becomes dehydrated because of excessive vomiting, the vet can administer fluids intravenously. 

Recovery of Taro Poisoning in Cats

Taro poisoning is rarely fatal, so your cat should recover following treatment. Most cats will be immediately released to their owners following treatment, but if your cat suffered any complications such as dehydration or swelling in the airway, he may need to stay for additional monitoring.

Prior to taking your cat home, talk to the vet about whether you need to change your cat’s diet over the next few days. The crystals have probably made your cat’s mouth, throat, and stomach sore, so it could be difficult for him to eat anything besides soft foods. 

The most important part of managing this condition is preventing further exposure to the taro plant. If you have this plant inside or outside of your home, remove it immediately. If you believe your cat was exposed to the plant in someone else’s yard, try to keep him indoors as much as possible so he does not come into contact with it again.