Lily Toxicity in Cats

Lilies are beautiful, but potentially deadly for cats.
Lilies are beautiful, but potentially deadly for cats.

Table of Contents:

  1. Signs and Symptoms of Lily Toxicity in Cats
  2. Diagnosis and Treatment of Lily Toxicity in Cats
  3. Prevention of Lily Poisoning

Lilies are as common in many spring homes as chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, but did you know that this popular flower is toxic for cats? Multiple types of lilies can make your cat ill, and eating just one leaf of a toxic lily can result in severe poisoning.

Here’s a list of lilies to avoid if you have inquisitive cats:

  • Tiger lily, Easter Lily, and Daylily. Both of the true lily families, lilium and hemerocallis, can cause kidney damage (renal toxicity).
  • Peace lily. Spathiphyllum lilies have calcium oxalates that can cause gastrointestinal distress and oral irritation.
  • Lily of the valley. Convallaria majalis are not harmful to the kidneys, but contain cardenolides which are dangerous for the heart (cardiotoxic).

Signs and Symptoms of Lily Toxicity in Cats

The primary toxic effect of lilies is damage to the kidneys. Within minutes to hours of ingesting part of the lily plant, your cat may stop eating and begin vomiting. As the toxin begins to affect the kidneys, your cat will become lethargic. Lily toxicity can even be fatal in its late stages.

If you suspect your cat has eaten part of a lily plant, it is important that you contact your veterinarian immediately. During the initial stages of ingestion, your veterinarian can induce vomiting and start therapy immediately. If treatment is started early, your cat has a good chance for recovery, but once the kidneys have been severely affected, this illness can be fatal.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Lily Toxicity in Cats

Diagnosing lily toxicity is generally based on a history of exposure to the plant and signs of vomiting and dehydration. Your veterinarian will do some preliminary blood tests to determine if any kidney damage has occurred, repeating these tests during treatment to ensure that it has been effective.

Treatment generally consists of hospitalization and intravenous fluids. Your veterinarian may also give your cat medication to control nausea and vomiting. Normally, your vet will recommend hospitalization for at least 72 hours after ingestion of lilies. This helps to flush the toxins out of their system and support the kidneys. Blood work is also routinely checked during this time.

If kidney injury is already noted on blood work or your cat has underlying renal disease, more advanced measures may be discussed. In severe cases, intermittent hemodialysis is recommended if a facility is close and available. While dialysis can be a financial commitment for your family, this may be the only way to correct damage during late stages of lily toxicity.

Prevention of Lily Poisoning

Obviously, the best prevention for lily toxicity is to keep lilies away from your cat. If you bring lilies into the home, you should keep them in a room that your curious cat can’t enter. Better yet, consider choosing other springtime flowers instead, like impatiens or gardenias, which aren’t harmful to cats.

As a reminder, if your cat gets into lilies, immediate treatment is imperative to minimizing kidney injury. Please have your cat seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible if they have been exposed to lilies.

The ASPCA Poisonous Plants directory is an excellent resource for identifying potentially ingested plants and investigating types of vegetation prior to bringing them into your home.

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