Animal Hospital of Kentwood

1538 44th St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508


Lily toxicity in cats

Lilies are flowers commonly used in floral arrangements and are very popular during Easter.  Unfortunately many florists and cat owners are unaware that lilies are exceedingly toxic to cats.  The toxic principle within the plant is unknown, but all parts of the plant, including the leaves, stem and flower appear to be toxic to cats.   There is no known test that can identify lily intoxication.  It is based on witnessing the cat ingest part of the plant or seeing part of the plant in the cat's vomit.

The first signs of toxicity are depression, vomiting, and loss of appetite.  The onset is usually within 2 hours of ingestion.  Vomiting may subside by 12 hours and the cat may appear to improve, but the cat will become more critical again when the toxin hits the kidneys.  Within 1 to 3 days, acute renal (kidney) failure occurs.  The cat may be painful in the abdomen due to enlarged kidneys.  Death can follow within 5 to 7 days.

Treatment must be performed early in order to be successful.  Within the first 4 hours of ingesting the plant, treatment focuses on emptying the stomach by inducing vomiting, and then administering medications to prevent absorption of the toxin.  It is essential to provide IV fluid therapy for at least the first 24 hours to make sure the kidneys continue to function properly.  Kidney failure can be diagnosed by blood tests, urine tests, an ultrasound, or biopsy.  If treatment is not performed early, and kidney failure has already begun, the prognosis is guarded to poor.