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Ask a Master Gardener: Cats, lilies a toxic combination

Both true lilies and day lilies are extremely toxic to cats.

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Q: During my cat’s annual veterinary visit, I noticed a warning in the reception area regarding cats and lilies. How seriously should I take this warning? No Easter lilies anymore?

A: First, thank your veterinarian, then heed the warning. Both true lilies and day lilies are extremely toxic to cats. The entire plant, including pollen from the flowers, can damage your cat’s kidneys leading to compromised renal function or death from kidney failure. Even drinking the water from a vase that had lilies in it can kill a cat.

Early warning signs of exposure or ingestion are drooling, lethargy, vomiting, and/or loss of appetite. Medical intervention must take place within the first 18 hours of ingestion. Signs of kidney damage can be seen within 12-24 hours; total kidney failure occurs within 24-72 hours.

Oriental lilies are heavily scented and bloom later, usually in August. thinkstock.com
Oriental lilies are toxic to cats.
Thinkstock.com

The most toxic lilies to cats are Asiatic lily and its hybrids (Lilium asiaticum), day lily (Hemerocallis species), Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), Japanese show lily (Lilium speciosum), Oriental lily (Lilium orientalis), stargazer lily (Lilium Stargazer) and tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum or lancifolium).

The threat these lilies pose is much greater to cats than to dogs. Dogs who ingest lilies may have upset stomachs, but the toxin in lilies does not cause kidney failure in dogs.

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Some other “lilies” do pose a danger to dogs, though. Although not true lilies, lily-of-the-valley and gloriosa lily are dangerous for both dogs and cats, potentially causing heart arrhythmia. Consumption of these two plants in large quantities can lead to multi-system organ failure. Common symptoms of ingestion are diarrhea, vomiting and generalized weakness.

While calla lilies and peace lilies are not life-threatening if chewed on or eaten, they can cause diarrhea and can irritate the mouth and throat, causing your cat or dog to drool or foam at the mouth. There is risk of breathing difficulties due to swelling of the esophagus, but most often these symptoms don’t require treatment.

Other popular spring flowers can also be hazardous to dogs and cats, including tulips, hyacinths, cyclamen and daffodils. If you’re planning to give flowers to someone who has pets this Easter or Mother’s Day, ask the florist about a “pet safe” bouquet.

More information may be found at fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/lovely-lilies-and-curious-cats-dangerous-combination
or the Animal Poison Control Center at petpoisonhelpline.com.

Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to  features@duluthnews.com .

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