Lily Toxicity in Cats
Recent studies have shown that acute renal failure can be caused by exposure and /or ingestion of certain types of Lily plants. These flowers are often used in flower arrangements around the home.
Cats being curious by nature will investigate the flowers, and while playing with them, may chew and swallow parts of the plant. All parts of the flower are poisonous – flowers, stamen, stem, leaves and roots, even the water in the plant holder if it has had parts of the plant/flower rest in it.
Cats ingesting Lily plants may do so when the owner is not in the house. It seems cats are unique to this intoxication possibly because their metabolism differs to that of other pets. Dogs can develop mild gastrointestinal signs and rats and rabbits develop no symptoms at all.
All of the Lily plants with the Latin name "Lilium" or "Hemercocallis" can cause acute kidney failure in cats. There are "False" Lily plants which do not cause issues (e.g. Lily of the Valley which causes cardiac toxicity instead).
Examples of some of the toxic species of lily include...
- Asian Lily
- Calla Lily
- Day Lily
- Easter Lily
- Glory Lily
- Japanese Show Lily
- Peace Lily
- Stargazer Lily
- Tiger Lily
For a full list of Lily plants
Cats should never have access to flowers or plants of this family
Early signs of toxicity usually happen within 2 hours and may subside within 12 hours
- Diarrhoea and/or
After this the cat will appear to have recovered, however, acute renal failure will develop within 24-72 hours and the cat will become critically ill and may show...
- Not eating
- Poor urine production
- Secondary pancreatitis
If the cat is presented promptly after known ingestion, the vet may administer some drugs to induce vomiting the plant material up, but cats are pretty good at not vomiting.
IV fluids, sometimes for 2-3 days, are very important to flush the kidneys out and protect them, even in a cat with suspected contact e.g. found with the flower pollen in its face.
Activated charcoal can help reduce the amount of toxin that gets in to the body, but is difficult to give to stressed cats and can cause high levels of sodium in the body if overdosed.
Young cats and those treated immediately after ingestion (max. 18 hours) have the best prognosis for a full recovery.