Lilies kill cats warns Waxahachie vet

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They’re delicately fragrant, easy to grow and make beautiful additions to floral arrangements, and one more thing: lilies are deadly to cats.

Joining veterinarians throughout the country in an effort coordinated by the Pet Poison Helpline, Waxahachie-area animal doctor Del Walters is issuing a local, public service message to alert people with cats that lilies are especially toxic to cats and pose an unusually high risk of death for feline companions.

“Don’t have lilies where there are cats, and if you have cats in the house, don’t take lilies inside,” says Dr. Walters, owner of Brookside Animal Hospital on the southwest side of Waxahachie.

bouquet of lilies
A common spring flower, lilies are deadly for cats.

Because lily bouquets and floral arrangements are common decorations for Easter and popular gifts for Mother’s Day, Walters says spring marks a risky season for indoor cats. All parts of lilies are toxic, and all a cat needs to do to experience kidney failure from lily poisoning is to lap up a drop of water from a vase with lilies, nibble on a lily leaf, or lick a few grains of lily pollen of his coat.

Dr. Del Walters is owner of Brookside Animal Hospital in Waxahachie, Texas

Cats who’ve ingested lilies may or may not show the initial signs of poisoning, such as drooling, lethargy and vomiting, so those who suspect that their cat may have ingested lily toxins should see a vet within 12 hours of the exposure “to be totally safe,” adds Walters. If treated, usually with an I.V. fluid flush of the kidneys, cats may pull through the exposure to lily toxin without permanent kidney damage. Left untreated, cats can die from acute (sudden) kidney failure within about three days.

Some cats exposed to lily toxin can also develop kidney failure over time, known as chronic kidney failure, which can start to show symptoms months later. Both acute and chronic kidney failure may cause a cat to urinate frequently, drink more water than usual and lose weight despite appearing to eat as normal.

No lilies for cats graphic
Pet Poison Helpline issues a public service message each spring to warn people about the danger that lilies pose to cats.

According to Pet Poison Helpline’s No Lilies for Kitties information page, the specific toxin in lilies that causes irreversible kidney damage in cats has yet to be identified. Lilies that produce the toxin include Asiatic, Easter, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, tiger, Western, and wood lilies (Lilium species) and daylilies (Hemerocallis species).

Less than 30 percent of people who have cat companions are estimated to be aware of the deadly risk that lilies pose to their cats.

Walters says that the risk is the same whether the lilies are cut and brought indoors as a bouquet or floral arrangement or are growing outside. Additionally, lily exposure in cats is considered a veterinary emergency.

“Cats are probably the toughest animal that can live on very little kidney until they teater over and then they can go downhill very quick,” Dr. Walters says. “Probably the easiest way to keep your cat safe from lilies is just don’t have any lilies around.”


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