By Amanda Poldoski, DVM
Staff Veterinarian and DVM Supervisor
Spring is officially here at Pet Poison Helpline! This means that soon we will be receiving more calls about pets ingesting plants, both indoors and out.
As Easter approaches we also see an increase in the number of calls regarding cats ingesting lilies. Lilies are beautiful flowers but are also highly toxic to cats! Ingestion of even miniscule amounts of “true” lilies (Lilium or Hemerocallis species) may cause drooling, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, and potentially fatal kidney failure in cats. All parts of the plant are considered toxic; the stem, leaves, flowers, pollen, and even the water if they are in a vase. If a cat does ingest some lily, prompt treatment by a veterinarian is imperative for the best prognosis. Unlike cats, dogs ingesting lilies may experience minor stomach upset but do not develop kidney failure.
The following are some examples of lilies considered dangerous around cats:
- Asiatic lily – including hybrids (Lilium asiatica)
- Day lily (Hemerocallis species)
- Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum)
- Japanese Show lily (Lilium speciosum)
- Rubrum lily (Lilium speciosum var. rubrum)
- Stargazer lily (Lilium ‘Stargazer’- a hybrid)
- Tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum or lancifolium)
- Wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum or umbellatum)
Some other plants may contain the word “lily” in their name but are NOT considered true lilies, and may carry different risks following ingestion.
- Calla lily (Zantedeschia species) – may cause oral and gastrointestinal irritation (drooling, vomiting, diarrhea) following ingestion.
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum species) – may cause oral and gastrointestinal irritation (drooling, vomiting, diarrhea) following ingestion.
- Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) – contains toxins called cardiac glycosides that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and heart arrhythmias.
- Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria species – mentioned below) – may cause mild gastrointestinal upset following ingestion, can be mistaken for small versions of “true” lilies but does not cause kidney failure.
In general, cats love to chew on plants! Even if a cat “doesn’t tend to chew on things,” when new items (like seasonal flower arrangements) are brought in to the home the temptation may be just too much for them to resist!
If you have a cat in your home, consider some of these safer alternatives for cut flower arrangements and bouquets:
- Baby’s breath*
- Daisy (Gerbera and others)
- Chrysanthemum a.k.a. Mums*
- Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria species)*
- Spring crocus
*These plants may cause more gastrointestinal irritation or upset (drooling, vomiting, and/or diarrhea) than others on the list but are not expected to cause systemic toxicity (i.e. kidney, liver, or nervous system effects).
Keep in mind that ingestion of any type of plant, even if considered “non-toxic,” may cause stomach upset due to mechanical irritation from the plant material alone.
Happy Spring! And just remember….No lilies for kitties!
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a potential toxin, contact your veterinarian or call Pet Poison Helpline right away at 1-855-764-7661.