With spring and Easter right around the corner, it is common to start seeing lilies for sale. However, cat owners should think twice before bringing a lily into their home because they are severely toxic to our feline friends, with potential to cause kidney failure and death.
The most dangerous lilies are of the Lilium and Hemerocallis species. All parts of these plants are toxic, from the petals to the water in the vase. Examples include tiger lilies, daylilies, Asiatic hybrid lilies, Japanese show lilies, Easter lilies, rubrum lilies, stargazer lilies, red lilies, western lilies, and wood lilies. As little as a couple of bites from a petal could cause symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, lethargy, loss of appetite, dehydration, increased thirst and urination, and ultimately kidney failure.
If lily toxicity is left untreated, it can be fatal in as little as three days, so it is critically important to bring your cat to a vet as soon as you know they ingested any part of the plant. The sooner treatment is started, the better the prognosis. Treatment usually starts with the veterinarian inducing vomiting or giving activated charcoal, which binds to the toxins in the stomach and prevents them from absorbing into the bloodstream. IV fluids are usually given at a high volume in the hospital for 2-3 days to hydrate and flush the toxins out of the kidneys. The veterinarian will likely need to monitor the cat’s bloodwork and urine output to assess kidney function.
Other lilies, such as the peace lily, Peruvian lily and calla lily, are not as dangerous since they are not “true lilies”, however, they do still pose a threat. They contain crystals that can severely irritate the mouth, throat, and digestive tract when ingested. Typical signs of this type of lily ingestion are drooling, pawing or foaming at the mouth, and vomiting. There is no risk of kidney failure with these plants.
Another plant worth mentioning is the lily of the valley. While this flower also does not pose a threat to the kidneys, ingestion can affect the heart and cause irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure in both dogs and cats. Severe untreated toxicity can progress to seizures or coma.
Written by Stephanie LeBlanc, RVT