Pet Toxins

Are Lilies Dangerous to Cats? (Vet Answers!)

lilies are toxic to cats

I love the weather in the springtime. Sunny days, blooming trees, and fresh flowers like lilies that cats for some reason love to chomp on. Easter lilies, also known as Lilium longiflorum, are a very popular plant in the spring. Their fresh fragrance and soft petals can attract dogs and cats alike. However, they are toxic to our feline friends, and in this post, I will explain why.

 

What Types of Lilies Dangerous to Cats?

Plants belonging to the genera Lilium (i.e. true lilies) and Hemerocallis (i.e. daylilies) are associated with kidney failure in cats. 

They include: 

(Most common)

Lilium longiflorum (Easter lily) 

Lilium orientalis (Stargazer lily)

Lilium asiatica (Asiatic lilies)

 

Other types of Lilies:

Hemerocallis dumortieri/Hemerocallis fulva (day lily)

Hemerocallis graminea (orange day lily)

Hemerocallis sieboldii (early day lily)

Lilium elegans (Asiatic hybrid lily)

Lilium lancifolium (tiger lily)

Lilium speciosum (Japanese show lily)

Lilium speciosum var. rubrum (rubrum lily)

Lilium  umbellatum (red lily, western lily, wood lily)

Other plants contain the word “lily” i.e. Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley), Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lily) and Zantedeschia spp. (calla lily) are not true lilies. 

Lily-of-the-valley can cause issues with the heart when ingested (like low blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythm) but is not linked to kidney damage. Vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy are also signs of possible ingestion.

Peace lilies and Calla lilies may cause oral irritation when ingested, and a cat may drool, paw at their mouth, and vomit when exposed. Oxalate crystals in the plant are the source of oral and pharyngeal irritation.

All a cat has to do is chew on a petal or leaf, like the pollen from their paws, or even drink water from a vase containing freshly-cut lilies for it to be harmful.

Lilies are not toxic to dogs, however, if they are ingested, a dog may experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and inappetence.

What are the symptoms of lily poisoning?

Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. Unfortunately, the exact toxic component is unknown. Cats with a history of exposure to lilies usually show symptoms like vomiting, salivation, lethargy, and inappetence within two hours of ingestion. As more time passes, an unsteady gait, weakness, tremors, vocalization, increased thirst/urination, seizures and even producing little to no urine are symptoms that can occur. 

Some cats may only require minimal therapy and can go home from the hospital after 24 hours. Others may develop permanent kidney injury despite many days of treatment.

lilies are toxic to cats
                                                          Easter Lily

 

How is lily poisoning diagnosed?

There is no specific toxin analysis for lily poisoning. Baseline lab work run at a veterinary clinic may show abnormally elevated kidney values in (BUN and Creatinine), and also elevated levels of potassium and phosphorus. Imaging like X-rays and ultrasound may show enlarged kidneys in advanced cases, and also fluid in the chest or abdominal cavity which is abnormal.

What is the treatment for lily poisoning?

If your cat has eaten a piece of a lily but has not vomited yet, a Veterinarian will give a drug to induce vomiting and empty the stomach. Activated charcoal, a compound used to treat poisonings, may be given to prevent absorption of the toxin (lily).

Once a cat starts showing symptoms, they usually need to be admitted for hospitalization and supportive care, which includes anti-nausea medications and intravenous fluids for at least 2-3 days. During this time, the kidney values are checked daily to see if they are approaching normal levels.

Stomach protectants may be used also to protect the gastrointestinal tract from ulceration due to elevated kidney values.

If a feline patient is not producing urine, the prognosis is typically poor. Advanced measures like peritoneal dialysis (a way to remove waste from the blood when the kidneys are not working) and a kidney transplant are options for cats that have end-stage kidney failure.

Urine production will be measured in the hospital. If this value is normal, along with normal kidney values and electrolytes on lab work, a cat can be weaned off intravenous fluids and discharged home.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis is generally good if a cat can vomit up the pieces of lily shortly after ingestion and their kidney values are found to be normal, or normal after a few days of hospitalization and treatment. 

If a feline patient has severely abnormal kidney values that do not improve despite several days of IV fluid therapy, and/or they are not producing a normal amount of urine, then the prognosis is very poor. Not being able to make or produce urine is life-threatening.

For a cat that has eaten a piece of a lily, it is imperative to get them to the vet as soon as possible as early intervention and aggressive therapy have a good survival rate. Cats that are seen by a doctor that have changes in their kidney values already have a worse outcome, especially cats that are producing little to no urine. In some cases, the kidney damage is irreversible.

Early intervention is key for a positive outcome. Cats that are exposed to lilies and receive immediate treatment are less likely to have permanent injury to their kidneys.

What should you do if your cat eats a lily?

If you suspect that your cat has eaten a lily, you should take them to the vet so they can induce vomiting. It can help if you bring a picture of the plant to aid in diagnosis.

How can you prevent your cat from eating a lily?

As lilies can cause damage to the kidneys, it is best to not have this type of plant inside your home. If you have outdoor cats, do not plant any type of lily in your garden.

If you think your cat has ingested a lily or any other type of plant, seek veterinary care immediately. You can either call your primary veterinarian or a veterinary emergency hospital near you. Another option is to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control or Pet Poison Helpline. A consultation fee may apply.

For the love of pets,

Dr. Gina

Check out my blog post on Pet Emergencies!

Dr. Georgina Ushi is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctorate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. She currently works in the Tampa Bay area, providing compassionate care to dogs and cats. Alongside her clinical work, Dr. Ushi consults for pet well-being brands and writes health articles for her blog, Pet Health Love. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge to educate and inspire fellow pet owners. Dr. Ushi’s professional interests include emergency and critical care, wildlife medicine, nutrition, and hospice and palliative care.

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