Spring is finally here! Birds are singing, the snow is (finally!) melting, and beautiful spring plants are available in many stores and centres.
With Easter around the corner, one of these popular plants is the Easter Lily, also known as Lilium longiflorum. This common plant, along with other members of the true lily family (Liliaceae), are deadly toxic to cats.
What happens when my pet eats this plant?
It doesn’t take much of these plants to cause a lot of damage. Even just a few leaves can cause a severe toxicity (PetMD 2017). While the immediate signs of ingestion can include vomiting, hypersalivation (drooling), and a loss of appetite, the true damage to your cat’s kidneys will occur over the next 24-72 hours. This kidney damage will result in an increased urine output over the first 1-2 days, followed by a lack of urine production after that.
What is the treatment for lily ingestion?
Quick treatment is critical to save your cat’s life. Your pet’s doctor will recommend hospitalization for fluid therapy (intravenous fluids via a catheter). Some patients will benefit from oral activated charcoal, depending on how long ago the ingestion occurred. Bloodwork and urine tests will help determine how much kidney damage has occurred.
I think my cat ate a toxic plant, what do I do?
Call our hospital at (902) 434-3111 for further instructions. Outside of our regular office hours, contact Metro Animal Emergency Clinic at (902) 468-0674. It is unlikely that we will instruct you to induce vomiting, since this can be dangerous to do at home with a feline patient. Take a photo of the plant with your smartphone, or bring the plant with you so that we can confirm the plant’s identification.
The sooner your cat receives medical attention, the better his or her chances for survival.
What about other lilies?
All members of the true lily family, Liliaceae, are extremely toxic to cats. There are many species and hybrids available, but any lily with the scientific name starting in Lilium or Hemerocallis are in this family.
There are some other common houseplants that are called lilies, but do not belong to the family of true lilies. Some of these plants include the Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) that belong to the arum family, Araceae, and do not cause kidney damage. These plants can still cause severe gastrointestinal distress, however.
Because true lilies can cause such severe, life-threatening disease with a very small amount eaten, we do not recommend keeping these plants in a home with cats.