Lilies and Cats: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Lily Toxicity

Lilies and Cats

Lilies are beautiful flowers but can be quite poisonous to your cat. Photo courtesy of jnewland/Flickr.com

Lilies are favorites in gardens and as cut flowers in bouquets. However, for cats, lilies can be fatal. Many types of lilies are highly toxic when ingested by a cat.

What Types of Lilies Are Toxic to Cats?

The true lilies are the most dangerous. These are lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species and include the tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, Western, and wood lilies. These types of lilies cause kidney failure for a cat unlucky enough to ingest any part of these lilies.

Lilies such as the Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies are much less dangerous. These lilies can cause irritation to your cat’s mouth, tongue, pharynx and esophagus but do not cause kidney damage. Cats that ingest these plants may drool, paw at the mouth and even vomit but the effects are transient and cats generally recover fully.

Another type of lily that can be dangerous for cats is the lily of the valley. This type of lily can cause a heart arrhythmia and can be fatal if ingested by your cat. However, these lilies do not affect the kidneys like the true lilies.

Symptoms of Lily Poisoning

With true lilies, all parts of the plant are toxic to your cat. Even the pollen is dangerous, and cats can be poisoned by rubbing up against a lily plant and then ingesting pollen from their fur while grooming. They can also be poisoned by drinking water from the vase of a flower bouquet containing these lilies.

The symptoms of lily poisoning are those of kidney failure. These include:

  • lack of appetite
  • lethargy
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • change in water consumption
  • change in urine volume
  • bad breath
  • seizures
  • death

Treatment of Lily Toxicity in Cats

If you see or suspect that your cat has ingested any part of a lily plant, seek veterinary care immediately. Early diagnosis and intervention is key to successful treatment.

If the ingestion is recent, your veterinarian may induce vomiting for your cat, depending on your cat’s condition. Intestinal protectants such as activated charcoal may also be administered in an attempt to block absorption of the toxins from the intestinal tract.

Supportive care and monitoring will be essential for your cat. Fluid therapy is the mainstay of treating acute kidney disease such as that caused by lily poisoning. Other medications to control vomiting and other symptoms may be necessary as well.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM

Lorie Huston, DVM has written 88 posts in this blog.

Lorie Huston is a veterinarian with 20+ years of experience with dogs and cats. She is also a talented free-lance author and blogger and has contributed to numerous publications, including Pet Sitter's WORLD, FIDOFriendly, Dancing Dog Blog, Dawg Business and many others. Lorie is the featured pet care writer at Suite101.com, a contributing writer in Dog and Cat Diseases and Conditions at About.com and the National Pet Health Examiner at Examiner.com. In addition, she is a host of the popular podcast/review site, Animal Cafe.

Comments

  1. Sandra says

    Thanks for a great article.

    I have learned the hard way what plants (many, many) are poisonous to cats. I have had dogs most of my life, and now have two lovely, very affectionate kitties.

    I love them dearly and had no idea how dangerous plants and flowers could be to them…

    I thought chives were kind of like catnip. So, when I saw a big beautiful chive plant, I bought it. My kitty girl ate a great deal of it, then got sick. I called the Pet Poison Control (who confirmed chives are dangerous) – and we took her to the vet. They did the blood tests, medications and gave her an i.v.

    I had taken her in once before because I thought she’d been poisoned. I had seen her chewing on a tulip…the vet did tests and said it was a urinary tract infection. (A second litter box solved the problem.)

    Cats are not like dogs – I remember our dog occaionally getting into something that didn’t agree with him, but it wouldn’t be life threatening. (We had a lab that drank my mop water – amongst other things he got into. Made him sick, but it was never life threatening.)

    So, lesson learned: Cats and plants do not go together.

    Cats are different – I no longer bring plants into the house. The vet here told me to assume (unless I know otherwise for sure) that the plant is poisonous. So, as much as I love them…no flowers or plants in the house…I love my kitties much more.

    A list of non-poisonous plants/flowers would be wonderful…if there are any.

    Thanks again!

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