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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.