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Treating cats poisoned by lilies

Article

Renee D Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, discussed the toxicity of these flowers for cats and what harmful effects they can pose during the 2022 AVMA Convention

The toxicity of lilies was stressed during a session on “Toxic Plants and the Small Animal Patient”1 presented by Renee D Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, at the 2022 American Veterinary Medical Association conference in Philadelphia, PA. Schmid emphasized the danger to cats, in particular. For dogs, lilies can cause irritation to the GI system, but for cats they can be potentially fatal, she noted.

Schmid said that lilies are “certainly the most common plant call that [veterinarians] receive,” with regards to a client calling in to the Pet Poison Helpline.

Types of lilies to watch

“When we talk about toxic lilies, we're really talking about renal toxic lilies. These are the types that caused renal failure to occur in cats… the 2 main types of [toxic] lilies are going to be in the Lilium species, Easter lilies, Tiger Lily, Stargazers, oriental lilies, the Rose Lily. And then there’s Hemerocallis, the day lilies, which are usually limited to landscaping and not used in fresh cut bouquets often,” said Schmid.

“All parts of the plants are toxic, including the pollen, including the water if it's a cut bouquet—the water that that plant has been sitting in—the leaves, and stems,” she continued.

If these lilies are ingested by cats, it can cause acute kidney failure, with GI signs starting between 2 to 12 hours, and renal effects as early as 12 to 96 hours after ingestion. Schmid stressed that if a cat owner calls about a lily toxin and reports that the cat vomited, aggressive care needs to start immediately. She stated, “Because the most common sign on almost every cat that develops azotemia or renal damage from lily poisoning will vomit first.”

Treatment after toxic ingestion

If caught early, within 6 hours after ingestion, poisoned cats can be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids and induced vomiting to clear the toxin out of the body. However, Schmid explained, “even if we do get plant material back, we're still going to treat [the cat] pretty aggressively because of that long term concern for kidney failure.”

“We typically are going to follow up with activated charcoal and IV fluids for about 48 hours,” she said. Peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis can be done in severely symptomatic patients.

Schmid also reminded veterinarians to remove any and all pollen from the cat’s fur.

Conclusion

Schmid ended her lecture by reminding attendees that plant identification can be difficult and utilizing any available resources can help correctly identify the plant in question. She recommended trying to find the scientific name of the plant to make certain it is the correct one since, often, plants can have similar common names. For example, lilies from the Lilium species can be a renal toxin for cats, but Peruvian lilies are not from that species and are not a renal toxin and cause an upset stomach at most.

Reference

Schmid, R. Toxic Plants and the Small Animal Patient. Presented at: American Veterinary Medical Association Convention; July 29-August 2, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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