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Easter Lilies Can Kill Cats, Warn UC Davis Vets

April 19, 2011

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During the spring season, be aware that Easter lilies and similar species that we use to decorate our homes can be lethal to cats. These pets can become sick from even small exposure to plant parts or water in which the flowers have been placed, say veterinarians from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Internal medicine specialists at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and the UC Veterinary Medical Center - San Diego encounter several cases of lily poisoning each year and receive frequent calls from referring veterinaries who suspect that lilies have poisoned their patients. The main symptom is acute kidney failure.

Robert Poppenga, veterinary toxicologist from the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, says that no test currently exists to analyze the specific chemical effects of lily poisoning in felines, but evidence from the cat's environment and recent patient history may lead to a diagnosis of lily toxicosis.

The ASPCA Poison Control Center links lilies and other poisonous plants among the "Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2008," saying that lilies are especially toxic to cats even in small amounts.

Larry Cowgill, chief of the Hemodialysis and Blood Purification Unit of the teaching hospital and associate dean/co-director of the UC Veterinary Medical Center - San Diego, says that cats with lily toxicosis "are managed as we would any cause of acute kidney failure." He adds, "Often the animals need hemodialysis because of the severity."  Cowgill says. "About 50% recover, but it may take three to four weeks."

As school faculty have cared for cats with kidney failure from lily poisoning, it is timely to remind consumers of the seasonal risks from this toxic plant, Cowgill advises.

Download the flier and inform your feline-loving friends.


Larry D. Cowgill, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM--William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and UC Veterinary Medical Center - San Diego

Sheri Ross, DVM, PhD., Dipl. ACVIM--UC Veterinary Medical Center - San Diego