Members of the Lilium and Hemerocallis sp., including the Easter lily, Tiger lily, Japanese show lily, stargazer lily, Asiatic lily, Oriental lily, Daylily, and Rubrum lily are extremely toxic to cats and can cause acute kidney failure. Calla lilies and Peace lilies, though each toxic in their own ways, are not part of this particular group of lilies.
All parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems and pollen, are toxic to cats, and chewing on even a single leaf is enough to cause a deadly form of feline renal failure. Unfortunately, cats seem to find these plants irresistible choices to chew on and owners often have no idea that it has even happened until their vet inquires about access to such plants when investigating why a cat is suddenly in kidney failure.
Initial symptoms of the toxicity include vomiting, lethargy and decreased appetite that occur within several hours of ingestion of the plant. However, these symptoms often improve shortly thereafter only to recur again 24 to 48 hours later. Early intervention and treatment is crucial and is able to save many cats. Unfortunately, by the time the symptoms appear for the second time, it is often because the kidneys have been permanently damaged. The prognosis for recovery at this stage is very poor, often requiring weeks of treatment and even dialysis to regain any function at all and leaving the few cats that do survive with permanent kidney disease.
If you suspect that your cat has ingested even a small amount of a lily, you should seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment usually involves inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal and 48-72 hours of intensive IV fluid therapy. If this is done before any elevation in kidney values has occurred, the prognosis is very good and these cats usually make a full recovery. Waiting to seek treatment, even a single day, can drastically decrease the chances of survival.
The safest course of action if you have cats in your home, is to ensure that lilies, though beautiful flowers, are not brought into your home at all. In this case, a simple ounce of prevention can be a true lifesaver.
(Note: Much of the above information can be found on the Animal Poison Control site for ASPCA.)
Brooke Freeman, DVM is with Cambridge Animal Hospital. The hospital is located at 1610 Pace St. #400 in Longmont. Phone: 303-651-7297. Or go to cambridgeanimalhospital.com.
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