Do you have a cat in your household? Please use EXTREME caution when bringing in flowers, bouquets, and new plants into your cat-friendly household. Easter lilies are extremely poisonous to cats, and just 1-2 leaves (or even the pollen) can kill a cat! Even small ingestions can result in severe kidney failure.
Sources of poisoning: Many plants of the Lilium and Hemerocallis species are very poisoning. Commonly known as the Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, or Japanese Show lily, these plants result in severe acute kidney failure.
Mechanism of action: The exact toxin has not been identified, but is known to be water soluble. All parts of the plant – the leaf, pollen, stem, flower are considered poisonous. Kidney damage (specifically, renal tubular necrosis) occurs within 24-72 hours of ingestion.
Common signs of poisoning: Signs of poisoning often develop within 6-12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, inappetance, lethargy, and dehydration. Untreated, signs worsen as acute kidney failure develops, and signs of not urinating or urinating too frequently, not drinking or excessive thirst, and inflammation of the pancreas may be seen with lily poisoning. Rarer signs include walking drunk, disorientation, tremors, and even seizures.
Antidote and treatment: There is not antidote for lily poisoning. That said, prompt veterinary attention is necessary. The sooner you bring in your cat, the better and more efficiently your veterinarian can treat the poisoning. Decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving drugs like activated charcoal to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines) are imperative in the early toxic stage, while aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, kidney function monitoring tests, and supportive care can greatly improve the prognosis. IV fluids need to be started, ideally, within 18 hours for the best prognosis for your cat.
Threat: Just 2-3 leaves, or even the pollen groomed off the fur, can result in poisoning in a cat. If untreated, acute kidney failure will develop and be fatal. Thankfully, lily poisoning doesn’t cause kidney failure in dogs, but if a large amount is ingested, it can result in some gastrointestinal signs in our canine friends.
What about other types of lilies? Other types of lilies like Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies don’t cause deadly kidney failure, but they also can be mildly poisonous too, as they contain oxalate crystals which result in tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus – resulting in minor drooling. If your cat is seen consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat (and the plant) immediately to a veterinarian for medical care.