Teach your veterinary clients: No lilies for kitties!

April 2, 2015

A new educational campaign for pet owners and veterinary professionals.

With the Easter holiday and Mother's Day rapidly approaching, the veterinarians from Pet Poison Helpline, in partnership with the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association, want to remind you to be on “lily alert,” especially for your feline patients. Some of the most common lilies, such as Easter lilies, daylilies and lily of the valley, are highly toxic to pets, especially cats. Unfortunately, studies suggest less than 30 percent of cat owners are aware of this danger. To help increase awareness amongst veterinary professionals and pet owners about the dangers of common lilies, PPH and MVMA are launching an educational campaign-“No Lilies for Kitties!”

Introduction to Lilies

Many different kinds of plants are found or sold with “lily” as part of their name. A few grow wild in ditches and wooded areas, some are sold as bulbs in garden shops and many are used in floral arrangements. It's important to identify each lily and know the difference among them, especially if you have or treat cats.

Nephrotoxic Lilies (special risk to cats)

The most dangerous and potentially fatal lilies for cats are those found in the genus Lilium and Hemerocallis.  Common examples of these lilies include the Easter lily (L. longiflorum), stargazer lily (L.orientalis), tiger lily (L. tigrinum or L. lancifolium), Asiatic hybrid lily (many varieties of Lilium spp.), wood lily (L. philadelphicum) and daylily (Hemerocallis spp.).  The toxin has not been identified, but exposure to any part of the plant, including leaves, flowers, pollen or even the water from the vase may result in acute renal failure in cats. These ingestions are medical emergencies requiring immediate veterinary care. Early decontamination, aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, renal function tests and supportive care greatly improve the cat's prognosis. A delay of treatment of more than 18 hours after ingestion generally results in irreversible renal failure. Interestingly, dogs may experience minor gastrointestinal upset after ingestion of these lilies but do not appear to develop renal damage.

Cardio and Cytotoxic Lilies (risk to dogs and cats)

Other types of dangerous “lily” plants include the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) and gloriosa or flame lily (Gloriosa superba). Lily of the valley contains cardenolides or digitalis-like toxins, which do not cause kidney failure but may cause life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and death when ingested by dogs or cats. Equally toxic to all animals is the gloriosa lily. The toxic agent is colchicine (toxic to rapidly dividing cells); the roots or tubers may contain enough toxins to cause serious multi-system organ failure in cats and dogs that chew on them. Early and aggressive therapy is generally needed when these plants are ingested.

Less Harmful Lilies (risk to dog and cats)

Less serious consequences occur when pets chew or swallow plant pieces from other “lilies.”  The calla lily (Zantedeschia spp.) and peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.) contain insoluble oxalate crystals that are direct irritants to the mouth, tongue, pharynx and esophagus. Drooling, foaming, or pawing at the mouth, vocalization and vomiting are commonly reported when pets chew on these plants; respiratory distress much less often. The Peruvian lily (Alstromeria aurea) contains tulipin A, a toxin that may cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting or diarrhea if ingested in large amounts. Symptomatic and supportive care are keys to successful treatment of these poisonings. 

 

Cats and other pets consuming any part of a “lily” plant may need immediate veterinary medical care. Instruct pet owners to bring the animal and plant to their veterinarian as soon as possible or call the pet poison helpline. Early identification of the specific lily and appropriate treatment will usually prevent most undesirable outcomes.

Free Educational Materials for Veterinary Hospitals

Please help spread the word about ‘No Lilies for Kitties!' You will find host of printable and shareable educational materials at www.noliliesforkitties.com, including a one-minute video about lily poisoning from Pet Poison Helpline, educational articles, lists of toxic and less-toxic lilies, safer cut-flower options for pet owners and other materials that you can download, print or share on your own clinic's website and social media platforms.

 

About Pet Poison Helpline

Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center based out of Minneapolis, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals that require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff provides treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline's fee of $49 per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.