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Posted By: Greg - Vet

Khaleesi the cat has close escape from poisonous flower

Poisoning of pets can be a concerning issue amongst owners, but thankfully as a deliberate action it is actually very rare. Still, toxins are an important and regular part of veterinary practice as a lot of intoxications can be accidental, especially around the house. Most people are aware of the common household hazards to their pets – potential dangers are often kept out of sight and reach from our animals so that curiosity doesn’t get the better of them and something doesn’t get swallowed by mistake! But an object as seemingly innocent as a bouquet of flowers can end up causing significant harm to our pet cats, as Khaleesi the 7 month old moggy almost found out.

Like most young cats, Khaleesi is active and inquisitive around the house. Early one morning however she got a little too close to a vase of flowers. Ordinarily this situation might not come to much harm (apart from perhaps the vase!) but this particular flower arrangement contained lilies. The lily is an important poison where cats are concerned – they are particular susceptible to the pollen from the flower and intoxication can easily become fatal. Just a small amount of the material if ingested could cause irreversible kidney failure.

Cats unlike dogs don’t usually lead by their mouths or stomachs, but it doesn’t mean that a toxin can’t be ingested; in fact contamination of the fur can quickly cause a problem, as cats are so good at grooming themselves. All Khaleesi needed to do was brush past the flower with a head rub or try and play and pat the dangling petals for the fur on her face and paws to be heavily contaminated with lily pollen.

Fortunately for her owners, the bright yellow colouration of the pollen showed up starkly on Khaleesi’s white fur, and her quick thinking owners immediately brought her into the practice. There was not an exact known time of contact with the pollen, or indeed knowledge of whether she had swallowed any, but this wasn’t a risk worth taking and action needed to be undertaken immediately. Khaleesi was admitted to be hospitalised; initially she was given a good wash to get rid of the excess fur staining, and then she needed an injection to make her sick to help her bring up any amount of pollen that may have been swallowed. Injections to provoke sickness are used regularly with dogs and usually to great effect, but they are not as effective in cats – added to the fact that there is usually a 3 hour window before the stomach empties further down into the intestines and there was an unknown timescale in her contact with the lily.

Fortunately, the 75% chance of vomiting following the injection worked in her favour, and the recent meal of cat food for breakfast helped her bring the entirety of her stomach contents up. It was quite obvious that some pollen had been swallowed as her vomit was bright yellow! She now needed to be put on a drip to flush any toxin out of her system and to help the kidneys, as well as receiving syringe feeds of charcoal to bind up any remaining pollen in her intestines. The injection also helped to subdue her, which wasn’t a bad thing in this instance as such a lively young kitten may not have tolerated either the drip placement or the syringe feed!

Khaleesi settled into her kennel well, where she would undergo at least 24 hours of observations. She began to eat once the effects of the injection had worn off, and became back to her bright self as if she wondered what all the fuss was about. A blood sample was taken later in the day to check her kidney function which happily for her came back clear. She remained hospitalised overnight and the following morning the blood sample was repeated and gave similarly pleasing results. At this point Khaleesi seemed to have left the danger period and was showing no ill effects at all. Later that day she was discharged home and none the wiser, though there may be a different bunch of flowers in the vase!

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