SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — There is no greater time of year for the lovely lily, but there is also no more dangerous time of year for cats, as a single nibble of a leaf, a few drinks of the vase water, or even brushing against lily pollen could lead to kidney failure and death.
The issue is well-known, but not well-documented. Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration put out a warning about lilies, but many supermarkets sell lilies with the pollen removed, and a warning that “Lily pollen is harmful to cats if eaten” but the true effects are far more tragic.
“This is really important information for pet owners to know, especially during the Easter season,” said Dr. Cristie Kamiya, VP of Medical Operations at Humane Society Silicon Valley. “It’s always a good idea to be aware of potential toxins in your home and this particular one is more common in spring.”
The toxins in the lily are not limited to just Easter Lilies, but several members of the lily family. (Onions and garlic and all their relatives are also highly toxic for other reasons.)
The emergency might begin when an unaware owner spots their cat chewing on the leaf of a lily that a guest brought over for Easter.
A few minutes later, they may see the cat vomiting, and just think the cat was having a similar reaction to eating grass.
Then, as the toxins set into the kidneys, urination will increase at first, and then the cat will stop urinating in 1-2 days, before losing its appetite, and becoming dehydrated. Multiple organ failure can come next, and there may be no options other than euthanasia for some cases.
DIAGNOSING AND TREATING A CAT THAT ATE OR TOUCHED A LILY: PetMD.com
Prevention is the best cure, but if you do discover your cat may have contacted a lily plant, PetMD.com recommends look at the scientific name of the plant. The most dangerous plants have the name “lilium” in the genus, including Easter lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies, in addition to any plan from the genus, “Hemerocallis” including day lilies. Calla lilies do not affect kidneys the same way, but do cause drooling and vomiting.
A veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting before bring the pet to the hospital. Bring a piece of the plant, and its label if you have it, to the hospital.
Carbon can be given to help reduce ingestion of the toxins, along with intravenous fluids to dilute the toxins and help prevent complete kidney failure. The sooner the treatment, the better the chance of survival.
Even if you knew about the lily danger, veterinarians say emergencies with pets can happen at any time. Dr. Kamiya suggests the lily warning, “….also drives home the importance of having emergency contact information for your local 24-hour veterinary hospital posted in your home.”
PET POISON HELPLINE: 1-855-213-6680
VETERINARIAN DIRECTORY AND HELP FINDING A VET: Humane Society Silicon Valley
Veterinarians recommend never having lily plants in your home if you have cats, and avoid planting them.
Lilies are poisonous for dogs and humans as well, but the plants are not as toxic and do not cause as many deaths as they do in cats.
PLANTS THAT ARE DANGEROUS FOR PETS: Humane Society Plant List