Easter Lilies: Beautiful plants, but a household toxin for our kitty friends

This content is written by Dr. Jessica Wooleyhand, Associate Veterinarian, Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital.

Easter is just around the corner and while we are all excited for the Easter Bunny to bring great treats, it’s important to think about our furry friends. One of the most common plants that people bring home around this time are lilies which include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter or Japanese Show lilies.

Unfortunately, many owners do not realize that lilies are extremely toxic to cats. Just 1-2 petals or leaves, even the pollen can cause severe kidney disease or death. All parts of the plant are toxic and directly target the kidneys which occurs around 24-72 hours after ingesting. Typical signs start within 6-12 hours of exposure and include vomiting, lethargy, inappetence and dehydration. If left untreated, kidney failure signs will start to appear such as urinating too much or not urinating at all and excessive thirst. Additionally, pancreatitis (or inflammation of the pancreas) may occur resulting in vomiting and GI upset. Signs that indicate more advance toxicity are drunken-like walking, tremors, seizures or tremors.

There is no known antidote for lily toxicity which is why it is such deadly toxin. If any exposure to lilies occur, veterinarian assistance should be immediately as quicker care results in better outcomes. The first step in treatment of lily toxicity is to try and bind the toxin, this is done by either inducing vomiting to try and retrieve that ingested plant or by administering a liquid medication called activated charcoal which will try and bind the toxin in the GI tract. After this, aggressive intravenous fluid therapy is started, bloodwork will be run to assess kidney function and supportive care for other symptoms will be started. For the best possible outcome, fluids and veterinary care need to be started within the first 18 hours of exposure. Unfortunately, if left past 18 hours, the prognosis for drastically decreases and can be ultimately a fatal consequence.

If the cat makes it to being discharged from the hospital, your veterinarian will likely recommend to recheck bloodwork every week for a month or so to make sure there is no lasting damage on the kidneys. Despite aggressive care, some cats may develop chronic renal disease which is unfortunately is not a reversible condition and typically carries a lifespan on average of 2 years.

So instead of getting lilies this year for Easter, consider bringing home cat friendly plant. These include catnip, daisies (Gerber), rubber plants or even an Easter cactus! If you are ever concerned a plant you own may be toxic to your cat, reach out to your veterinarian or take a look at the ASPCA’s Poison Control’s extensive list of toxic vs non-toxic plants for cats: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/cats-plant-list

Source: Pet Poison Helpline: https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-safety-tips/are-lilies-poisonous-to-cats/

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