What is True Aloe Poisoning?

The true aloe plant belongs in the Aloaceae family and has the scientific name of Aloe barbadensis. Other names for true aloe include Barbados aloe, medicine plant, aloe, octopus plant, candelabra plant and torch plant. 

Aloe is used by humans for medicinal purposes, but if true aloe is ingested by small animals, including cats, it has toxic effects. The toxins in true aloe include anthracene, glycosides, and anthraquinones. True aloe may encourage bowel movements and vomiting. Poisoning symptoms are generally mild, unless your cat has eaten a large amount of the plant.

Symptoms of True Aloe Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of true aloe poisoning include:

  • Change in urine color (urine becomes red)
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • In rare cases, tremors

Causes of True Aloe Poisoning in Cats

Because true aloe contains glycosides, anthracene, and anthraquinones, classified as saponins, your cat should avoid it. The poisonous part of true aloe is the white latex, not the gelatin held within the leaves.

The saponins in true aloe work to increase the amounts of mucus and water in your cat’s colon. This leads to him developing abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If you’re going to use aloe on your pets, purchase an aloe product that has the latex removed. It’s the latex in the aloe that is the toxin and irritant, both to your cat and to yourself.

Diagnosis of True Aloe Poisoning in Cats

Once you realize your cat is sick from true aloe poisoning, it’s extremely important for you to get him to the vet just as soon as you can. Once your cat is on the exam table, your vet will carry out a full physical, which will include taking a full medical history.

If you know your cat ate from an aloe plant in your home, cut a sample for your vet and put it into a plastic bag. Your vet will want to test the aloe to make sure this is what is making your cat so sick.

Your vet’s diagnostic process will include taking a urine sample and blood for blood work. She may also have your cat X-rayed to make sure he isn’t suffering from organ damage or any other illness. If you have given your cat aloe for medicinal purposes, tell your vet, especially if you realize that the aloe hasn’t had the latex removed.

Treatment of True Aloe Poisoning in Cats

The care your vet gives to your cat will be symptomatic, offering support so your cat begins recovering from his symptoms. The vet will want to remove all remaining aloe plant from your cat’s system, which may require the induction of vomiting. Once your cat has gotten rid of all plant material in his stomach, he may be given activated charcoal, which helps to neutralize the toxins still remaining in his digestive system. Once they have been neutralized, they will safely pass through your cat’s intestines.

Your cat may need intravenous fluids if he has become dehydrated. Oxygen therapy to increase the level of oxygen to all bodily organs may also be given.

Recovery of True Aloe Poisoning in Cats

Your cat’s recovery depends on two things: how much aloe he ate and how quickly he was given veterinary treatment. He should recover fully as long as he receives prompt treatment.

If your cat does suffer organ damage, his recovery will take longer and it will be more difficult. Your vet may require that you take your cat to her office for follow-up appointments. Once he comes home from being treated, give him a quiet place where he can rest and recover.