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Easter Lilies - Not Just a Pretty Flower?

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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The Easter lily is as common in many spring homes as chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. But did you know this popular flower is toxic to your cat? In fact, other members of the lily family have been found to be toxic, including the day lily and the tiger lily (although there's no need to worry about the non-toxic calla lily, peace lily, or glory lily). Eating just one leaf of a toxic lily can result in severe poisoning, and within a short time your cat will exhibit signs of toxicity.

Signs and Symptoms

The primary toxic effects are on the kidneys. Within minutes to hours of ingesting part of the lily plant, your cat might stop eating and begin vomiting. As the toxin begins to affect the kidneys, the cat will become lethargic. Finally, he will experience kidney failure and death will generally occur within five days.

Once you suspect your cat has eaten part of a lily plant, it is important that you contact your veterinarian immediately. If treatment is started early, chances are your cat will recover, but once the kidneys have been severely affected, your cat may not survive.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing lily toxicity is generally based on a history of exposure to the plant and signs of vomiting and dehydration. Your veterinarian will probably do some preliminary blood tests to determine if any kidney damage has occurred, and repeat them once treatment has been started to determine if treatment is effective.

The treatment generally consists of hospitalization and intravenous fluids. Your veterinarian may also give your cat medication to control nausea and vomiting. Home care will not result in full recovery.

Prevention

Obviously, the best prevention of lily toxicity is to keep lily plants away from your cat. If you bring lilies into the house, you may have to keep them in a separate room where your nibbling cat cannot enter. Better still, consider choosing other springtime flowers instead, like impatiens or gardenias, and leave the lilies outside.

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