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Case Study: Lily poisoning in a cat


Mango, normally a lively 2 year old cat, seemed quiet on New Year’s Eve and appeared to have vomited in the house. The day before Mango had been off her food and was not going to the toilet as often as normal. Following a Road Traffic Accident last summer Mango had become a house cat, which ruled out road traffic accidents and cat fights as a cause of her change in behaviour.

Mango was found to be dehydrated and had a low temperature so was admitted into our hospital for investigations and treatment. She was placed on fluids over-night, but as she was so dehydrated we were unable to obtain a blood sample until the following morning. The test results showed that Mango was in acute kidney (renal) failure. After discussing possible causes for Mango’s kidney failure with her owner, it seemed that Mango had access to a bouquet of lilies that the owner had been given for Christmas, a flower renowned for being highly toxic to cats. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service was contacted for the most up to date thoughts on treatment and prognosis.

Lillies in the home

Cats are uniquely sensitive to the ingestion of Lily flowers or leaves (Lilium and Hemerocallis species). As few as 2 leaves can be lethal in cats whereas in dogs large quantities appear to cause mild gastro-intestinal upset and even the pollen can be toxic. Usually vomiting occurs within 3 hours of ingestion. Excess salivation, lethargy, weakness, anorexia and dehydration can all occur. Death usually occurs 3-7 days after ingestion. The only treatment available is supportive care. This may involve making the cat sick if the lilies were eaten within the last 2 hours but the mainstay is high rates of intravenous fluids. If fluid therapy is not started within 18 hours of ingestion the prognosis is usually poor.

Mango stayed in the hospital on fluids and medication for 5 days until her bloods showed that the acute renal failure had fortunately reversed. This is a wonderful outcome to what is quite often a very sad ending to many cats that have had access to lilies.

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