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No Lilies for Kitties

Spring has sprung, and Easter is just around the corner, followed shortly thereafter by Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, these joyful holidays are two of the most dangerous days for cats. Why? The answer is simple: lily poisoning. Exposure to common lilies such as Easter lilies, tiger lilies and stargazer lilies results in thousands of feline poisonings and deaths every year, and yet less than 30% of the 36-million cat owners in the USA are aware that ingestion of any part of a lily can be fatal for cats. Many different kinds of plants are found or sold with “lily” as part of their name. A few grow wild in ditches and wooded areas, some are sold as bulbs in garden shops, and many are used in floral arrangements. If you live with cats, or have friends and family who live with cats, it’s critical to know which lilies are toxic to those feline family members.

Lilies in the “true lily” and daylily families such as Easter lilies, stargazer lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies and Oriental lilies are highly toxic to cats. These beautiful and affordable flowers are often found in cut-flower bouquets or potted for the Easter holiday. If you have cats at home, it’s critical that you do not bring these flowers inside. Ingestion of just one petal, leaf, or even the pollen can cause complete kidney failure in less than three days. The specific toxin has not yet been identified, but if you even suspect your cat has eaten any part of a dangerous lily, this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY requiring IMMEDIATE veterinary care. Early decontamination, aggressive IV fluid therapy, kidney function tests, and supportive care may improve your cat’s prognosis. Due to the high risk of fatality, the veterinarians of Bellevue Animal Hospital PC recommend that these flowers NEVER be brought into homes with cats.

Other dangerous “lily” plants include the Lily of the Valley and Gloriosa or Flame Lily: Lily of the Valley may cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when ingested by cats OR dogs, while the roots or tubers of the Gloriosa lily may cause serious multi-system organ failure if chewed on by cats or dogs. If you think your pet has ingested any part of a dangerous lily, contact us immediately at 402-291-1255; if our office is closed, you should call the VCA Midwest Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center (VCA-MVREC) in Omaha at (402) 614-9000.

You can still give beautiful bouquets for Easter, Mother’s Day, and other holidays – just be sure to choose safe alternatives to those lovely but lethal lilies! When buying flowers or ordering them for delivery, it’s wise to specifically instruct florists to not include any lilies in the Lilium species such as stargazer, Asiatic, Oriental, or tiger lilies. Giving florists the scientific name of the flower species can also help avoid confusion. Safer cut-flower choices include baby’s breath, carnations, Gerbera daisies, hyacinths, iris, Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria species,) roses, tulips, and zinnias. Some of these plants may cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, but are not considered life-threatening.

For more information about kitties and lilies, check out the graphic below, and take a look at the Pet Poison Helpline’s short video on lily poisoning. Still have questions? Please call us before you buy those bouquets, we’re happy to help! You can help by spreading the word, and help us save more feline lives!

No Lilies for Kitties pet poison graphic

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