Cats chew on houseplants. It is a common occurrence and most cat owners are aware that their cat is doing it. Sometimes, it kills the plant. But sometimes, it can kill the cat.
There are certain plants that a cat should have absolutely no access to, and it is important to be aware of which ones before bringing a new plant into the house. In addition, it is also important for the vet staff responsible for taking a suddenly-ill cat’s history to ask these kinds of questions.
Most lily species are toxic to cats. The cat can ingest very little of the lily to cause fatal consequences. The injection of lilies can cause acute renal failure in a cat and it is important that it gets immediate veterinary attention.
When taking a history from a client, whether on the phone to determine the urgency of the emergency, or in person, it is important to ask: 1. Were there any new plants introduced into the household. 2. Does your cat chew on houseplants in general? These should be questions incorporated into general history questions that should be asked by the veterinary staff.
During my internship at a clinic, while I was still a student, there was one patient that almost slipped through. A cat presented at the clinic for vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Upon evaluation, the patient was also dehydrated. I didn’t even think of lily toxicosis, a lot of illnesses can have those symptoms. This is why it is important to incorporate these questions when taking the history of an ill cat.
It was near the end of the consultation when the veterinary technician asked whether they had any new plants in the house – Easter had just happened – and it just so happened that, yes, the client had recently received a bouquet of flowers.
Although only finding chewed up lily in the cat’s vomit gives a definite diagnosis of lily toxicosis, blood and urine tests can be done to evaluate kidney function. In addition, large amounts of IV fluids can be given to prevent the dehydration of the kidneys from shutting down. The patient is put under observation until urine production seems normal.
A good history is key to good diagnosis and the key to taking a good history is to ask the right questions. Lily toxicosis can be fatal if left untreated or if treated too late. Therefore, a good question to always ask is “what type of houseplants or bouquets do you have in your house?”