With spring finally here and Easter right around the corner, we are starting to reap the benefits of warmer and longer days. One of the highlights of the season is bringing fresh flowers indoors to spruce up our homes with some natural beauty. Cat owners should always be aware that certain blooms should never cross the threshold of their door. Lilies can cause severe or even fatal kidney failure in cats, and it doesn’t take much. All parts of the plant are toxic- petals, leaves, stems, even the pollen. Even drinking water from the vase that the lilies are in is toxic to cats. The exact compound and mechanism for toxicity are actually not known, but all species in genera Lilium spp and Hemerocallis spp. (Daylilies) are toxic. Cats are the only species known to fall victim to this particular toxicity.
Signs of lily ingestion will most likely include vomiting within 5-10 minutes, followed by lethargy and lack of appetite (2-6 hours later). Later, the cat may develop excessive thirst (12-30 hours later), further weakness, lethargy or even death.
If ingestion is promptly noted (within hours), our East Village veterinarians can administer an injection to induce vomiting, which will help to remove any additional plant remnants from the cat’s stomach. Activated charcoal is then administered to neutralize any particles left in the intestinal tract. The vet will then advise baseline blood work and urinalysis to determine your cat’s current kidney function. Aggressive intravenous fluid therapy for 48-72 hours can prevent significant kidney damage by getting extra blood flow to the kidneys. There is no specific antidote for lily toxicity, but supportive care can save these cats. Cats presenting for medical care much later after ingestion of lilies may require dialysis to recover kidney function.
Protect your cat by carefully choosing floral arrangements, and never send any kind of lily to a household with cats. Early recognition of any contact between your cat and the flower will go a long way to successful treatment, but knowing and avoiding the risk altogether is best. Spread the word and keep cats out of the ER this Easter season!