Lily toxicity in cats is well recognized by veterinarians, but many cat owners are unaware of the dangers of these plants. The toxic varieties include Easter lilies, day lilies, tiger lilies, rubrum or Japanese showy lilies, stargazer, and other Lilium and Hemerocallis species. Toxic exposures are most likely to occur around Christmas and Easter, as lilies are popular holiday ornamental plants. In addition, owners often have lilies in their homes after funerals, which makes feline lily toxicity particularly tragic. Every part of the plant is toxic, including the pollen. Because these plants shed their parts so easily; ingestion by a curious cat is a likely occurrence. Cats can walk in or brush against the pollen, getting it on their paws and coats. Later, being the fastidious creatures that they are, they will later ingest that pollen or other plant part while grooming. Most cats develop kidney failure, sometimes with pancreatitis, within hours to days.
Owners may not notice any difference in their cats in the first 12 hours, or they may see some vomiting, an increase in thirst and urination, and lethargy. Signs may progress to tremoring, weakness, and seizures. An initial increase in urination progresses to a decreased urine output as the kidneys shut down. Once urine production stops completely, death follows soon there after. If you suspect that your cat has ingested any part of a lily plant, bring your cat to a veterinarian immediately. The sooner we initiate treatment, the better the prognosis. Treatment involves aggressive but careful fluid therapy, correcting electrolyte imbalances, supportive care, and removing residual toxin from the GI tract if ingestion has occurred within the last few hours. If acute kidney failure develops, dialysis may be necessary to prevent death. Even when dialysis is initiated promptly, there is approximately a 50% mortality rate. Once kidney failure develops, without dialysis, the majority of cats die.
For more information about specific plants toxic to cats, please visit the ASPCA’s animal poison control website at http://www.aspca.org/Petcare/poision-control or call (888) 426-4435.
Written By: Dr. Nicolette Zarday Sources: ASPCA Poison Control; Cote, E. Clinical Veterinary Advisor, Mosbey Elsevier, St. Louis, MO 2007