Oh No!!! Easter Lilies!

Apr 4, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

We’ve set our clocks forward and have seen crocuses poke their heads up from the frozen earth, and the first thing that many of us want to do is to celebrate spring with some lovely, fragrant lilies – especially the beautiful white trumpet-shaped Easter lilies that appear everywhere this time of year. Unfortunately, for those of us with cats, this is probably the worst way to usher in good weather.

Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are incredibly poisonous to cats. Well, all lilies, really – Tiger Lily ( Lilium henryi and lancifolium spp.), Day Lily (Hemerocallis spp.), Asiatic lily (Lilium asiatica), Stargazer lily (Lilium orientalis) and the rest of the Lilium family. (Not sure if you have a lily? Wikipedia has images of many of the lily species which will help with identification.) All parts of the lily plant are dangerous, including the flowers, stamens, stems, leaves and roots – even the pollen. If a cat gets pollen on its coat and then grooms, it could still cause fatal illness. Cats that get pollen on themselves should be thoroughly bathed as soon as possible.

Most of the time, we only know that a cat has eaten a lily because some part of the lily appears in a very inconveniently placed puddle of vomit. Many people may even initially write it off, thinking, “Oh well, Fluffy got into the spider plant again. Guess I’ll go get the carpet cleaner.” (Spider plants are non-toxic, by the way, so Fluffy can eat away at them all she likes!) However, when it comes to lilies, it is imperative that you seek emergency medical treatment for your cat as soon as possible to ensure proper and effective treatment. In approximately 2-4 days after ingestion of the plant, your cat may begin to show signs of kidney failure. If enough toxin is absorbed to cause acute kidney failure, then the likelihood that your cat will respond to treatment is poor.

A cat affected by lily intoxication will initially show signs of an upset stomach (gastritis): vomiting, a lack of interest in food and lethargy. These initial signs may appear within 2-12 hours of ingestion and may disappear after 12 hours. The cat may improve briefly or appear to act normal before the condition progresses to serious acute renal failure within 48 to 72 hours.

Once a cat’s kidneys have been damaged to the point of failure, they will show a variety of signs such as lethargy, vomiting, increased thirst, and urinating large quantities (in some cases, urine production may stop altogether – anuria). Affected cats are also likely to be dehydrated. If left untreated, death can occur in as little as 3 days.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

There is no “lily poisoning test”, diagnosis is usually made due to someone witnessing the cat eat the lily or vomit part of the plant. Blood tests that check the kidneys (BUN and creatinine levels) will help confirm ingestion, though severe increases are not likely to be seen immediately. If your cat’s kidney values are normal after eating part of a lily plant, this is GOOD! It means that treatment is more likely to be successful.

Within 6 hours of exposure, depending on how quickly the cat is brought to the veterinary hospital, doctors and staff may try to induce vomiting and/or give medications to prevent further absorption of the toxin. Even if blood values are normal and the cat vomits up the lily parts you will likely be advised to hospitalize your cat for monitoring and IV fluid administration for a minimum of 24 hours. If your cat is treated immediately after ingestion, prognosis is good.

Up to 48 hours post-exposure, immediate hospitalization and intensive IV fluid therapy will be recommended. The length of time that your cat will need to be hospitalized depends on how badly his kidneys have already been affected, and how he responds to treatment. Prognosis is guarded to poor – mild to moderate kidney damage may be permanent.

Two to four days post-exposure, depending on laboratory testing of the kidneys, humane euthanasia to end suffering may be the only option. Prognosis is very poor – severe, irreversible kidney damage may result in the inability to produce urine. Left untreated for longer than 18 hours, one can expect death in almost 100% of cases.

If you or anyone in your household suspects that your cat may have ingested any part of a lily, no matter how small, please seek immediate veterinary attention. Hesitation may mean the difference between life and death for your cat!


Calla Lily


Peace Lily

Note: While Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.) are not true lilies, they are still toxic to a lesser degree and can cause oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing


Lily of the Valley


Peruvian Lily

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is also not a true lily, however, it is also toxic and can cause vomiting and cardiac problems such as irregular heart beat, low blood pressure, disorientation, coma, and seizures. Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria spp.) is another lily to be aware of. While many florists advertize it to be non-toxic, large amounts of this lily-lookalike can cause stomach irritation, vomiting and diarrhea. Peruvian lilies come in all colors and are also valued in floral arrangements due to their long life as a cut flower.

For further information:

Dr Steven Bailey

Dr. Steven J. Bailey founded Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in 1992. He obtained his Bachelor of Science and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University in June of 1986. After graduation, Dr. Bailey practiced emergency medicine for 8 years prior to establishing Exclusively Cats. Dr. Bailey is one of two veterinarians in the state of Michigan and the only veterinarian in Southeastern Michigan that has been board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners as a Feline Specialist (ABVP). His special interests include complicated medical/surgical cases as well as critical care, advanced dentistry, and behavioral medicine. Dr. Bailey is an active member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), he is a current council member of the Southeastern Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (SEMVMA). He is also an Associate Editor of the Feline Internal Medicine Board on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), invited member of VMG #18 (The only feline exclusive Veterinary Management Group) and MOM’s group (Macomb/Oakland Management Group). In his free time, Dr. Bailey is an avid kayaker (some may even call him “obsessed”) and an instructor in both canoe and kayaking sports. He also enjoys running and spending time with his family. Dr. Bailey and his wife Liz have 2 adult children, Christopher and Kayla, 3 cats, Tic Tic, Sapphire and Lacey, and one dog, Charlotte.

Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital

6650 Highland Road

Waterford, MI 48327

Phone: 248-666-5287

Fax ‎206-333-1135


Website: http://www.exclusivelycats.com

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