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Veterinarians Caution Cat Owners: Hundreds of Cats Poisoned by Easter Lilies Each Year

"Unbeknownst to many pet owners, Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats," said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. "All parts of the Easter lily plant are poisonous - the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure.""

In most situations, symptoms of poisoning will develop within six to 12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Symptoms worsen as kidney failure develops. Some cats will experience disorientation, staggering and seizures.

"There is no effective antidote to counteract lily poisoning, so the sooner you can get your cat to the veterinarian, the better his chances of survival will be," said Brutlag. "If you see your cat licking or eating any part of an Easter lily, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately. If left untreated, his chances of survival are low."

Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering drugs like activated charcoal (to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines), intravenous fluid therapy to flush out the kidneys, and monitoring of kidney function through blood testing. The prognosis and the cost - both financially and physically - to the pet owner and cat, are best when treated immediately.

The veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline, a national 24/7 animal poison control center, receive hundreds of calls this time of year from pet owners and veterinarians concerning cats that have ingested Easter lilies.