We just launched the second video in our Paws on Safety: One Minute Pet Clinic video series! Check out our video on Lily Toxicity, just in time for Easter.
Lilies (Lilium species) are popular flowers prized in cut flower bouquets for their affordable beauty, longevity and wonderful scent. During the Easter season, potted Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are especially popular and commonly found in grocery stores, plant nurseries, and churches. Unfortunately, many pet owners do not know that Easter lilies, as well as other plants in the Lilium genus are highly toxic to cats.
There are both benign and dangerous lilies and it’s critical to understand the difference before you bring these flowers and plants into your home. Lilies in the Lilium and Hemerocallis (daylily) genus cause sudden kidney failure in cats. In addition to the Easter lily, common names for these plants include tiger lily (L. tigrinum or L. lancifolium), stargazer lily (L. orientalis), Japanese show lily (L. speciosum), Asiatic hybrid lilies (variety of Lilium species), and daylilies (Hemerocallis species). Exposure to any part of the plant, including leaves, flowers, pollen, or even the water from the vase or a pot, is problematic. If a cat ingests any portion of a lily, your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline® should be consulted immediately as this is a true emergency. A delay of treatment of more than 18 hours after ingestion often results in kidney failure. Dogs may experience minor stomach upset after ingestion of these types of lilies but they do not appear to develop kidney failure like our feline friends.
Other types of lilies such as the calla lily (Zantedeschia species), peace lily (Spathiphyllum species), and Peruvian lily (Alstromeria aurea) are popular flowers but fortunately do not cause life threatening signs that occur when cats eat them. Ingestion of these plants, especially calla and peace lilies, may cause tissue irritation in the mouth or transient vomiting.
The lily plant most concerning for dogs as well as cats is the Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis). Lily of the Valley contains toxins called cardiac glycosides which may result in vomiting and life-threatening heart problems, including changes in the heart rate (either abnormally high or low), and/or heart rhythm if bulbs and plant parts are eaten. Symptomatic and supportive care (treating the signs as they occur and maintaining the pet’s vitals signs) are key in the treatment of this poisoning.