The traditional Easter lily makes a beautiful spring time Easter arrangement or centerpiece. However, cat owners should be aware that Easter lilies along with many other lily varieties pose a potential health hazard to their pets. With the Easter Holiday approaching, this is a guide to learn the dangers of the Lily plant and how to keep your cats safe.
The vast majority of the public are not aware of the toxic dangers that lilies pose to cats, and that cats have been shown to be extremely sensitive to all parts of the many varieties of lily and lily hybrid plants. It is important for cat owners to learn the toxic dangers that they cause and how to correctly identify a lily to avoid bringing it into their home. Some lilies are so dangerous that as little as nibbling on 2 leaves or on a single flower can be fatal for the unsuspecting kitty. The exact amount, or toxic dose of the plant to cause symptoms is not known, but we do know that there is a quick onset of clinical signs that points to a rapid absorption rate. It has been reported that symptoms can start within 30 minutes of ingesting leaves or flowers. What does this mean for the cat owner; if you even remotely suspect that your cat has been nibbling on a lily plant, you need to contact your veterinarian immediately.
The major organ system that is affected by the ingestion of lilies is the kidneys and renal system. The renal tubular epithelium, or the cells lining the kidney, seems to be the main target of the plant’s poisonous affects. Once ingested you may see signs which include excessive salivation, vomiting,
anorexia, severe depression and dehydration. Once these symptoms are noticed and lily ingestion is the suspected cause, acute renal failure can progress rapidly if aggressive treatment is not started right away.
The mainstay of treatment consists of aggressive intravenous fluid therapy to flush out the kidneys as much as possible to prevent potentially life-threatening anuric renal failure (kidneys completely shut down and pet is no longer able to produce urine). If it is known that the cat ingested the plant the veterinarian may have the option of inducing vomiting or pump out the stomach to bring up any of the plant that remains undigested. This along with administering activated charcoal will help slow down any further absorption and help neutralize the toxin into the renal system. You should anticipate your cat to be in the hospital under close observation for at least 24 to 48 hours while intravenous fluids are administered. Blood work, such as serum chemistry profiles will likely be performed every 12 to 24 hours to evaluate kidney function and to gauge the effectiveness of the fluid treatment. If kidney failure has already occurred then the only hope for recovery may be renal dialysis and the prognosis is poor.
In addition to the fluid therapy to support the kidneys other symptomatic supportive care will be given as well. This could include gastro-protectants such as famotidine which inhibits stomach acid production or any other antiemetic which will decrease vomiting or nausea that may be present. Once the kitty is feeling better, no longer vomiting, and well hydrated the goal will focus on making sure he starts eating again. If he does not eat after 24 hours of no vomiting then an appetite stimulant may need to be given.
Although this type of toxicosis is life-threatening and the treatment can be daunting and expensive for any pet owner, it is important to know that recovery is possible and can happen with careful monitoring. If may take weeks if not months for the kidneys to return to complete normal function. If emptying the stomach and administering medications to prevent absorption of the toxin are effective, the prognosis for recovery is excellent. However, if enough toxin is absorbed to lead to acute kidney failure, then the prognosis is guarded to poor, and the mortality rate is high. This makes it essential to seek emergency care immediately after ingestion of the lily plant.
Knowing the dangers of lily plants can hopefully potentially save the life of your cat if he tends to be mischievous and nibble on plants around the house. Even one little nibble can mean a death sentence for even the most innocent kitty. Although the Easter lily makes for beautiful arrangements during the Easter holiday it is best to choose a plant that offers an attractive non-toxic alternative.