Spring is here and we all know that spring showers bring flowers, including Lilies! Whether these beautiful flowers are in our yard or given as a gift, it is important to remember that they are toxic to cats! It is very important to know which type of lily you have, as not all lilies are toxic to cats. Hemerocallis, day lilies, and Lilium, true lilies, are the types that cause renal failure in our cats. Cats that chew or eat any part of the plant/flower can experience kidney insult and should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.
Lilies cause kidney failure when ingested by cats and while the exact mechanism is not known, if untreated these cats can become so severely ill that death can occur.
Cats that ingest lilies often start to vomit and have decreased appetites and become increasingly lethargic. Other signs that they may display include vocalizing or hypersalivating shortly after ingestion; increased or decreased urination, increased thirst, tremors and in severe cases not being able to get up and seizures.
If there is a known or possible ingestion, immediate treatment gives the best prognosis.
Treatment for lily ingestion is based on preventing damage to the kidneys. Baseline blood work and urinalysis are performed to assess if there is already that can be noted. To prevent further GI absorption, vomiting may be induced and activated charcoal given. Intravenous fluid therapy is very important and these cats are typically on fluids in the hospital for 48- 72 hours, longer if needed. Cats with kidney disease can have gastric ulcers and thus medications to prevent this are started as well.
Prognosis for these cats depends on the amount of lily ingestion, the time after ingestion that treatment was started and proceeding with aggressive treatment. A good prognosis is possible if they are treated soon after ingestion. So just remember that while these flowers are beautiful, they can be extremely harmful to our feline friends.
Kerri Wiedmeyer, DVM, Wisconsin Veterinary Referral Center