Lily consumption is one of the more common poisonings that we see at Vetrica. Quite simply, it’s not safe to have lilies in a house with cats.
The Lily Flower
Lilies are a very common decorative plant, with a pungent fragrant aroma.
All parts of the plant are poisonous, including the pollen. For some reason cats seem to be attracted to them, and ingestion of the leaves is what see see the most. However, these flowers have large prominent stamens with a lot of sticky pollen, and an inquisitive cat can easily find his head covered in pollen. A cat’s natural grooming behaviour means they then typically go on to consume this. There are even reports of a cat being poisoned after merely playing in a box that contained lilies.
The Problem With Lilies
Why they are poisonous isn’t known, but lily poisoning causes acute kidney failure. Typical signs of this are vomiting, increased thirst and urination, depression, even seizures.
Kidney failure happens within 12-24 hours of eating lilies, so treatment must be started as soon as possible. If the cat ate the lily reasonably recently, we may make her vomit. Any pollen on the fur is washed off, and we sometimes have to clip the fur to remove it. However, the most important aspect of treatment is fluid therapy. This involves running fluids directly into the cat’s veins. This supports the kidneys, and prevents the development of kidney failure.
If we see the cat early enough, before kidney failure has started, the outlook is usually very good. However, if the cat’s kidney’s have already started to fail, then recovery is much less likely.
What About Dogs?
It appears that dog’s are much more tolerant of lilies than cats. They can cause stomach problems (vomiting and diarrhoea), but kidney failure isn’t seen.