Easter is a happy of time of year to celebrate with family and friends and welcome spring. But it is also a busy time of year for pet toxin ingestion making March Poison Prevention Month. The most common calls this time of year involve Easter lilies, chocolate, and Easter grass.
True lilies such as Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, and Japanese Show lilies are highly toxic to cats. All parts of the Easter lily plant are poisonous – the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure. In most situations, symptoms of poisoning will develop within six to 12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Symptoms worsen as kidney failure develops. Some cats will experience disorientation, staggering and seizures.
There is no effective antidote to counteract lily poisoning, the sooner you can get your cat to the veterinarian, the better his chances of survival will be. If you see your cat licking or eating any part of an Easter lily, call our office or Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661-fee applies) immediately. If left untreated, his chances of survival are low.
Treatment includes inducing vomiting to get any remaining plant material out of the stomach, administering drugs like activated charcoal (to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines), fluid therapy to flush out the kidneys, and monitoring of kidney function through blood testing.
Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Japanese Show, and my personal favorite Stargazer lilies are popular in many gardens and yards. These lilies are also commonly found in florist bouquets, so it is imperative to check for poisonous flowers before bringing bouquets into the household.
Non-toxic types of lilies – such as the Peace, Peruvian and Calla lilies typically only cause minor drooling.
Thankfully, lily poisoning does not occur in dogs or people. However, if a large amount is ingested, it can result in mild gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.
With Easter comes Easter baskets and decorations and Easter grass… the fake grass that often fills those decorative Easter baskets. When your cat or dog ingests something “stringy” like Easter grass, it can become anchored around the base of the tongue or stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. It can result in a linear foreign body and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract, often requiring abdominal surgery.
And what’s the other favorite thing in those Easter baskets? Chocolate of course! Chocolate rabbits and hundreds of kinds of chocolate eggs! While the occasional chocolate chip in one cookie is not typically an issue, certain types of chocolate are very toxic to dogs. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem. The chemical toxicity is due to methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine) and results in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and possibly death. Treatment here too requires inducing vomiting to get as much of the chocolate out as possible. The colored foil wrappers on some of those chocolate eggs do make vomiting a colorful process in a lot of cases! The treatment is much the same as lily ingestion where we give activated charcoal (not at all the same as grill charcoal, so please don’t try that) to absorb the toxins. We control the seizures and abnormal heart rhythm with supportive medications as warranted. And give fluids to help flush the toxins out of the blood stream.
Just a reminder, our family of clinics always has a doctor on call 24/7, 365 days a year. Call one of our regular clinic phone numbers and follow the prompts to reach our emergency doctor.
By: Dr. Haag-Eggenberger
Skinner Animal Clinic
Dwight Veterinary Clinic