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What is Tulip Poisoning?

The tulip is a flowering plant that can be found naturally occurring across the entire northern hemisphere of the globe. The species is extremely popular with gardeners across the planet due to its large and colorful flowers and variants can nowadays be found in almost every locale. Despite its popularity, however, the tulip can be surprisingly dangerous to a large number of animals if eaten, including cats.

Symptoms of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

The symptoms of tulip poisoning will typically manifest quite quickly and be very noticeable. It is important for cat owners to note as much information as they can regarding the progression of the symptoms, as this information can be very helpful when the vet is making a diagnosis.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Salivation
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Lethargy 
  • Weakness

Causes of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

Tulip plants contain a group of toxins known as 'tulipalin' (which can be further divided into tulipalin A and B). The substance is an allergen produced for no other reason than to ward off herbivores that may otherwise come to view the plant as food. In large enough quantities, tulipalin can prove to be quite phytotoxic (meaning that it will cause damage to the liver). However, in most cases of tulip poisoning, it merely causes intense irritation to the tissues that it comes into contact with. This results in the salivation, vomiting and diarrhea that affected cats will go through. The allergenic properties of tulipalin also result in the 'dazed' state that many cats will enter into.

Diagnosis of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

When the cat is brought to the appointment, the vet will perform a physical examination. This will allow them to observe the symptoms first-hand, check for complications and test the cat's reactions and vitals. The will also typically have some questions for the owner pertaining to the cat's medical history and lifestyle, as well as the events surrounding the poisoning. The information provided at this stage can help hasten the diagnosis substantially, so it is important to have much of this information to hand before attending the clinic. The vet may also choose to take a blood sample from the cat for laboratory testing, as this will allow them to precisely identify the responsible toxins.

Treatment of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

The most common (and widely effective) method for treating poisoning is to start the animal on fluid therapy. This procedure puts liquids directly into the cat's body via an intravenous drip, thereby quickly replacing lost water and rehydrating them. It also has the effect of causing urination, which will help wick the tulip chemicals out of the body. The vet will also typically choose to use activated charcoal in order to absorb any tulipalin that could be lingering in the stomach.

Recovery of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

Recovery time is largely dependent on the quantity of tulip material that the cat has eaten and the severity of the resultant symptoms. For most cats, however, only a week or two will be needed before they will be fit again. During this time, owners should try to restrict the cat's movement as much as possible to ensure that they get enough rest. It is also important to feed them a somewhat bland diet, as this will allow their stomach to recover faster (unlike if it was digesting rich foods). Generally speaking, follow-up appointments will not be needed unless the cat suffers from a recurrence of the symptoms or a secondary complication (such as dehydration) arises.

Tulip Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Hudson
Domestic longhair
2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Excessive Saliva

My cat started drooling very excessively out of the blue about 36 hours ago, I wasn't sure what was causing it until I just discovered a chewed up tulip bulb. I'm not sure if he vomited, we have a dog that cleans that up before I find it, but he hasn't had any diarrhea and has a healthy appetite, the drooling stopped but I still gave him 2 capsules of activated charcoal, I'm taking him in to the vet in the morning. I'll send an update on his condition. But he seems to be okay for now.

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Asher
Bengal mix
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

We believe our Asher ate the flowers on the table. I do believe they contained Tulips. He is now somewhat lethargic and vomiting 45 seconds after he eats. He only vomits if he eats something. 45 seconds to 90 seconds later. We have a Vet appointment in the morning but he has no appetite and also there was diarrhea in his litter box over the weekend. So we had them on the table for a week, he ate them little by little and slowly his vomiting came on with diarrhea but no more diarrhea. Only vomiting. Should we take him to the ER clinic or wait til morning?

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Stormi
tabby
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Vomitting
Lethargy

My cat just threw up from eating tulips. In her throw up we found the petals, but we didn’t find any bowls. Our cat has a naturally irritable behaviour but today she’s been lethargic and wasn’t as energetic at about 3 hours ago. We’re taking her to a vet appointment and now we’re afraid something bad might happen.

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race
Black cat
3 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Depression
Lethargic

my male cat ate 1 and a half bulbs of tulips about 30 mins ago i need your help we have him drinking lots of water to flush out any chemicals...um he also seems sad not the cat that i know so please help my poor boy

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Don't know
Don't know
4 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

N/A

Medication Used

N/A

If a neighbor's cat eats from one of your tulip plants, is it up to you to let him know that tulips are poisonous to cats,Or is it his duty to find out for himself?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1610 Recommendations
I think that it would be common courtesy as a decent human being to let the neighbor know that his cat is eating one of your tulips, as the cat does not know and may be having signs of a toxin.

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Na-na Wookie
Domestic shorthair
3 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Hi,
My cat at a piece of the green tulip leaf. She immediately vomited it up. I then gave her, her regular breakfast and she ate all of her breakfast. She's not exhibiting any symptoms at the moment. Should I be concerned?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1610 Recommendations
Since Wookie vomited the tulip leaf up fairly quickly, she may be fine to monitor for vomiting or diarrhea. Large amounts of tulips eaten can result in liver disease, so it would be best to keep a cose eye on her for continued vomiting or diarrhea, and have her seen by your veterinarian if she is showing any of these signs.

Thanks so much. She seems alright. She's eating as normal and playing with us too.

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Ollie
DOMESTIC
6 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

lack of appetite

My cat ate a small amount of tulip flower about 16 hours again. No vomit or diarrhea, just not that interested in his dinner tonight and is not himself. He did get into some bacon grease ina moment of curiousity this morning as well.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3319 Recommendations
Whilst the whole tulip plant is toxic, the bulb is the most toxic part and ingestion of any leaves, flowers or stems may result in a loss of appetite and vomiting due to gastric irritation even if eaten in small amounts; the bacon grease may also cause severe gastrointestinal distress. Keep an eye on Ollie and ensure that he is hydrated, if you have concerns visit your Veterinarian or an Emergency Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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