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What is Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning?

Texas umbrella trees contain meliatoxins, also known as tetranortriterpenes. These toxins can cause gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, excessive drooling, weakness, and seizures once ingested by cats. Every part of the tree has toxins, but the berries are the most dangerous as they contain the highest concentration of toxins.

Most cats will fully recover from Texas umbrella tree poisoning. However, if left untreated, your cat may experience seizures and dehydration. Avoid these complications and protect your cat’s health by taking him to a veterinarian as soon as you spot the symptoms of Texas umbrella tree poisoning.

The Texas umbrella tree, which is also known as the China ball tree, paradise tree, Persian lilac, white cedar, or chinaberry tree, can grow up to 50 feet tall. This tree has bright and beautiful flowers, but don’t be fooled by its beauty—it is dangerous and can be toxic if eaten by your cat.

Symptoms of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Cats

Many cats will begin to exhibit symptoms of Texas umbrella tree poisoning immediately after they come into contact with it, however some cats may go several hours before experiencing any symptoms. Some of the most common signs of Texas umbrella tree poisoning include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures


Causes of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Cats

This type of poisoning occurs when a cat eats or chews on part of the Texas umbrella tree, which contains meliatoxins, also known as tetranortriterpenes. Although the berries have the highest concentration of toxins, every part of the tree, including the bark, leaves, and flowers, can be toxic to cats. 



Diagnosis of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Cats

Owners who see their cats chewing on a Texas umbrella tree should contact a veterinarian right away. Take in a sample or photo of the plant to help the vet diagnose your cat’s condition. If you don’t actually witness your cat eating the plant, but begin to observe symptoms of poisoning, you should also visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Describe the symptoms you have observed in as much detail as possible. If your cat has already started to vomit, it may help if you bring in a sample of the vomit so your vet can identify regurgitated plant material. Diagnosing this condition can be tricky, so the vet will need as much information as possible from you.

Some vets will use an endoscope to examine the contents of your cat’s stomach and look for clues as to what could be causing the symptoms. If there is any plant material in your cat’s stomach, this will help the vet diagnose your cat’s condition. 



Treatment of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Cats

Treatment will begin right after a diagnosis. The vet will need to remove any plant material that remains in your cat’s stomach by inducing vomiting. This is done by administering a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution orally. Once the vomiting has subsided, the vet will also administer activated charcoal to absorb any of the remaining toxins in your cat’s system before they enter the bloodstream. Finally, the vet can perform a gastric lavage, which is the medical term for a stomach wash, to flush out the stomach cavity.

If all of the plant material has been removed from the stomach cavity, the vet can administer Kapectolin or sucralfate, which coat the stomach lining and prevent further irritation. 

Texas umbrella tree poisoning can often cause seizures. If your cat has already started to experience seizures, the vet will need to administer an anti-convulsant medication.

Throughout the treatment, your cat’s condition will need to be closely monitored by the vet. This is because excessive vomiting and diarrhea can lead to extreme dehydration. If your cat is dehydrated, the vet will need to administer fluids through an IV to help him regain his strength.



Recovery of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Cats

The majority of cats will fully recover from Texas umbrella tree poisoning within a few hours of treatment. However, if you do not get your cat treated right away, he may begin to experience serious health complications that make recovery more difficult.

Most cats will be released right after treatment. If there was a health complication such as dehydration or seizures, the cat may need to stay with the vet for additional monitoring to ensure he is stable enough to go home. Talk to the vet prior to bringing your cat home to discuss dietary changes. Some vets will recommend that you switch to soft foods in the days following treatment because the cat’s stomach may still be sensitive.

You will need to prevent further exposure to the Texas umbrella tree. Remove this tree from your yard if possible, and if you think one of your neighbors has it in their yard, keep your cat indoors as much as possible.



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Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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