After a dreary winter, we welcome Easter and its gorgeous array of vivid colors, plants, and decorations. However, the holiday also brings dangers for your pet, such as the tiny toys, foil-wrapped chocolates, sugar-free sweets, and synthetic grass in Easter baskets. For cats, the most toxic Easter decoration is outside the basket—the Easter lily. Even the water from a vase that held these lilies can kill your cat, so if you have a lily and a cat in your home, throw it out immediately (the lily, not the cat).
How are Easter lilies toxic to cats?
While the exact toxicity mechanism is unknown, we do know that the entire Easter lily is dangerous for cats. Eating just a petal or a leaf can be life-threatening. The pollen, which can be deposited on a cat’s fur as she brushes against a lily and ingested when she grooms, is also hazardous. Exposure to Easter lilies, as well as other lilies of the families Lilium and Hemerocallis, can lead to kidney failure. For your cat’s sake, do not keep any lily in your home or garden, even if you believe it is out of reach. Cats are notorious for getting into things that are off-limits.
Signs of Easter lily toxicity in cats
Different species of the lily family can cause a variety of issues, from gastrointestinal upset to death. If your cat runs afoul of an Easter lily, which falls into the most dangerous category because of its extreme toxicity, immediate veterinary care is critical to save your pet’s life. The deadly toxin from the lily travels in the blood, seeking out the kidneys, causing cells to decay and die, and destroying the kidneys’ ability to filter out toxins. Eventually, the toxins build up enough to cause severe, life-threatening kidney failure. Signs of lily toxicosis are seen within a few hours of ingestion and may include:
- Lack of appetite
Without prompt intervention, kidney failure will worsen, leading to such signs as:
- Increased urination or no urination
- Excessive drinking or no drinking
If you suspect your cat has come in contact with a lily, seek immediate treatment to minimize kidney damage.
Treatment of Easter lily toxicity in cats
Early intervention can save your cat’s life, but her kidneys may already be permanently damaged by lily ingestion. As soon as you have rushed your pet to our hospital, we will jump into action to limit the harm.
- Induce vomiting. We will medicate your cat to induce her to vomit any plant material in her stomach.
- Administer activated charcoal. We will administer this medication, which binds with the toxic substances in the gastrointestinal tract and diminishes their effect.
- Assess kidney function. We will perform a urinalysis and blood work to analyze your cat’s kidney function. The urine specific gravity will provide information regarding how well the kidneys are concentrating urine, and the blood work will show whether two key enzymes that increase with kidney disease are present.
- Flush out the toxin with intravenous fluids. A high volume of fluids will be administered to your cat to help flush out the toxins and keep the kidneys from sustaining more damage.
- Provide supportive nursing care. Most cats require hospitalization and IV fluid administration for at least a couple of days after lily ingestion. During this time, we will:
- Ensure your pet’s nausea is under control. Kidney disease causes nausea, reducing her appetite as the toxins accumulate because they cannot be filtered out.
- Continue flushing out the toxin with IV fluids.
- Verify that your cat is urinating appropriately given her increased fluid intake.
- Perform blood chemistry tests and take urine samples periodically to check her kidney values.
Once your cat seems out of the woods, based on blood work results and clinical signs, she can go home to recuperate. Periodic blood chemistry tests and a urinalysis may be warranted to keep tabs on her kidney function.
Don’t let curiosity kill the cat! Do not bring Easter lilies into your home. Call us immediately if any Easter decorations cause trouble for your inquisitive feline.