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Friday, 15 February 2013

Lilies are toxic to cats

As far as plants go, lilies are among the most beautiful, but this week at Broad Lane Vets we nearly saw them lead to tragedy. They smell lovely and seem to last forever, making them a fantastic addition to any floral arrangement. Many people adore them, and most animals aren’t bothered by them, but for cats, lilies are positively deadly. And it doesn’t take much. A single bite of leaf or lick of pollen can be all it takes to send cats into irreversible kidney failure. This was the case this week with 2 kittens that ‘broke into’ a closed room and took a lick of the lily pollen. Fortunately their owner was ‘lily aware’, and headed straight to the surgery with 2 kittens coated in pollen around their mouths and noses.  

Why are lilies so toxic to cats?
• We don’t know exactly which chemical within the lily is so dangerous, but we do know that ingesting the smallest amount of leaf, stem, flower or even pollen can be deadly.
• Other animals, including dogs and rabbits, can eat lilies with just a bit of mild stomach upset and do not seem to suffer from toxicity.

What are the symptoms of lily poisoning?
• At first, lily poisoning can mimic other cases of eating something that they shouldn’t have, so it can be difficult to know what has happened unless you saw them eat it. Signs include vomiting and lethargy, lack of appetite and shaking.
• These initial symptoms can actually disappear for a few hours to a few days, after the plant has passed through the digestive tract but before the real damage becomes obvious.
• Within a few days, however, the symptoms become those of kidney failure. This includes increased thirst and urination, dehydration, and worsening lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite. Eventually, this increased urination turns into a decrease in urination, and finally no urination at all, which indicates that the kidneys are no longer functioning.

What can be done about it?
• If you think your cat has eaten any amount of any part of a lily, it is critical that you bring them to the vets right away, even before clinical signs appear. Remember you can get advice and see a vet 24 hours a day by calling us on 02476 464789.
• If you bring them in within a few hours of ingestion, we are will likely to induce vomiting and possibly give a substance called activated charcoal, which will help lessen the effects of the toxins.
• Then, or if too much time has already gone by, we may put your cat on a drip and give IV fluids for as long as necessary. These fluids will help support the kidneys as they try to process the poison and flush out any toxins that do make it into the blood stream.
• There is no special blood test to diagnose lily toxicity, so many cases go undiagnosed. We will however likely run a general blood and urine test to check how badly the kidneys may have been damaged. These tests will probably need to be repeated several times during their stay in hospital.

What happens next?
• If you are able to get your cat to us within a few hours of ingestion, the chances are much greater that they will make it through the incident with the appropriate medical care. It is vitally important that your cat see us as soon as possible to begin treatment.
• If no treatment is given, or the kidneys have been damaged to the point where urination is starting to decrease, then sadly the chance of survival is very low.

How can lily poisoning be prevented?
• The best way to prevent lily poisoning in your own home is to prevent lilies from entering your home in the first place. This is easier said than done when well-meaning friends and family bring you a lovely bouquet.
• Remember, however, that it’s not just lilies in your house that can be deadly, always check your own garden for these and other toxic plants.
• Spread the word – by telling other people about the dangers of lilies, you are helping to increase awareness of the problem. The ISFM (International Society of Feline Medicine) has launched a campaign to help educate the public about lily toxicity. Their website has informative posters and tags to be put around floral arrangements that contain lilies at the florist. The more people know about lily toxicity, the safer all of our cats will be.

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