A closer look: Lily Poisoning in Cats
Cats who never ingest lily plants or their pollen will not ever suffer from lily toxicosis. Lily toxicosis can result from drinking vase water or from the ingestion of ANY part of the plant. A number of other plants that are commonly called “lily” but which do not belong to the lily family do not cause kidney failure, but can cause many other problems if ingested.
All plants belonging to the Lily genus are highly toxic to cats. No amount of lilies should be considered harmless to cats, as any amount can cause life-threatening kidney damage and as such must be treated as an emergency.
Lily toxicosis in cats is caused by the consumption of any plant belonging to the Lilium genus, including:
- Asiatic lily (Lilium asiaticum)
- Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum)
- Japanese show lily (Lilium speciosum)
- Oriental lily (Lilium orientalis)
- Stargazer lily (Lilium speciosum var. rubrum)
- Tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum)
- Wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum)
The underlying mechanism of Lilium toxicosis is unknown.
Clinical signs of lily toxicosis may be divided into early and late-onset symptoms.
In the first 2 to 24 hours following ingestion cats show vague symptoms.
Signs of acute kidney injury and kidney failure appear within 24 to 72 hours after ingestion.
Testing and diagnosis
Early diagnosis relies on a history of exposure. The symptoms of lily poisoning are nonspecific, especially in the early phase of the condition. Most cats with the generalized signs of illness described receive the following work-up:
- Serum chemistry profile
- Blood work
- Abdominal ultrasound
A cat with lily toxicosis shows characteristic changes on a complete blood count (CBC).
Steps to Recovery
There is no antidote for lily poisoning. If the ingestion is witnessed and the cat receives medical attention within 2 hours of ingestion, treatment focuses on gastrointestinal decontamination via induced vomiting.
There is no way to safely or effectively induce vomiting in cats at home.
Once symptoms start to appear, therapy is supportive and includes:
- IV Fluid therapy: to support kidney function
- Anti-vomiting medication
Even with treatment, prognosis is guarded. If treatment is delayed for more than 18 hours from ingestion kidney failure is likely to develop. Left untreated for more than 24 hours, the prognosis is very poor.
Lily toxicosis is prevented by eliminating contact with lilies. Strategies include:
- Avoid bringing any kind of lily into the house
- Not planting lilies in the garden
- Keeping cats indoors
Is Lily Poisoning in Cats common?
Lily poisoning is common in cats. Outdoor cats are more likely to be exposed and exposure may increase in the spring and during times of year when lilies are more commonly found in the house and garden.
- Gastrointestinal decontamination
- Fluid therapy
- Anti-vomiting medication