The Dangers of Easter Lilies

Pawsitively Helpful Pet Tips

with DR. DEB


ARE ALL LILIES POISONOUS TO CATS?  When determining if a lily plant is toxic, always look at the scientific name of the plant.  The scientific names is a two-part name:  the "first name" which is capitalized, is the genus and the "second name" is the species and is not capitalized.  Additional names following the first and second are further subdivisions of the species and not important for determining toxicity.

The lily plants of the greatest concern are any from the genus  Lilium and any from the genus Hemercallis.  Examples of some of these dangerous lilies include EASTER LILIES, tiger, Asiatic, day, Japnese Show, rubrum stargazer, red, Western and wood lilies.

Other types of dangerous lilies include lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria.  This type does not cause kidney failure, but can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when ingested by dogs or cats.

More benign lilies include the Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies; these contain insoluble oxalate crystals that cause minor signs such as tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx and esophagus.  Ingestion of these lilies may cause drooling, pawing at the mouth, foaming, and vomiting for short periods.

HOW DANGEROUS ARE Lilium and Hemercallis LILIES TO CATS? All parts of the lily--from the stem, leaves, petals, stamens to the pollen-- are poisonous to cats.  Even minor exposures (cat chewing on a leaf, licking water from the vase or getting pollen on his or her hair coat or whiskers)  can result in acute kidney failure and death often within 3 to 6 days after exposure.

WILL I RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF TOXIC LILY INGESTION? Exposure to a plant outdoors makes connecting the ingestion to a sick cat more difficult.  An owner may observe indoor cats having vomited a part of the lily plant they've eaten, and/or find evidence of the chewed lily plant.

In approximately 2-4 hours after ingestion of a toxic lily your cat may show vomiting, lethargy, and lack of appetite.  Later signs, approximately 24-72 hours after ingestion, include increased thirst and urination progressing to decreased urination after the kidneys fail.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: When it comes to treatment of lily toxicosis in cats, time is of the essence!  You will need to seek emergency veterinary care immediately!  If treatment is administered within 6 hours, chances are good that your kitty will survive.  After 18-24 hours, however, the prognosis is not as hopeful, even for cats that receive aggressive treatment.

Treatment includes emptying the gastrointestinal tract by getting the affected cat to vomit.  Veterinarians may also administer activated charcoal to neutralize the toxins.  Intravenous fluid treatment is an important part of therapy for at least 48 hours to support the kidneys.  A 24 hour veterinary ICU is necessary for proper treatment and close monitoring of blood chemistry and urine values along the way.

PREVENTION: Cat owners should not bring lilies into their homes.  Many cats have been poisoned by lilies that the family mistakenly thinks have been put "off limits"  within the home.

Consider other beautiful Easter flowers that are safe for your cat, including Easter orchids, daisies, violets or Easter cactus.

When ordering Spring flowers for delivery to homes with cats, specifically request that lilies not be included in the arrangement.  When the arrangement arrives, call the recipient and make sure that lilies have been not been included.

Share information about lily toxicity with your friends and family.  Please share the toll-free number to the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435, staffed 24/7.

Remove day lilies from you outdoor gardens if there are cats that wander outdoors.


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