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Lovely or Lethal Lilies?
Where cats are concerned, lilies can be bad news. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center explains how to spot renal toxic lilies and other serious signs to watch for.
Asiatic Lilies (Lilium sp.)
These lilies can be grown outside throughout most of the U.S. The leaves radiate off a central stem and they often have large, trumpet-shaped blooms in a wide range of colors, including yellow, white, orange, pink and red. Members of the Lilium sp. can produce severe toxicosis and acute kidney injury (AKI). All parts of the plants are toxic and there are documented cases where exposure to the pollen alone has caused AKI. Cats appear to be the only species known to develop renal failure from lilies.
Daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.)
Daylily flowers will often appear similar to Lilium sp. flowers. The main difference is the foliage, which appears almost grassy. Hemerocallis sp. have the same concerns as Lilium sp. and can produce severe toxicosis and acute kidney injury (AKI). All parts of the plant are toxic and there are documented cases where exposure to the pollen alone has caused AKI. Cats appear to be the only species known to develop renal failure from lilies.
Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum)
Peace lilies have green, waxy leaves. They also have a very distinct flower which is typically white, but can also be yellow or green. Peace Lilies contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. When chewed by an animal, there are immediate signs from the physical irritation of the crystals. You may see oral pain, hypersalivation, vomiting or diarrhea. Swelling may occur in the oral cavity, pharynx and tongue.
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria sp.)
Lily of the Valley typically have two green, glossy leaves per plant. They grow in close groups, so it often looks like there are a large number of leaves. The flowers are white or pink and bell shaped. They grow on a single stalk and appear in early spring. While these lilies are not renally toxic, severe clinical signs may still be seen. They contain cardenolides and are cardiotoxic. The toxin is extremely potent, and all plant parts are toxic. There may be vomiting, arrhythmias, decreased CO, weak pulse, hyperkalemia and possibly death. Treatment is largely symptomatic and supportive. If signs are severe, Digibind (Digoxin Immune Fab) can be considered for treatment.
Looking for more information on lily ingestion? This toxicology brief may help.
Peruvian Lily (Alstromeria sp.)
While these beautiful flowers may look a lot like Lilium sp. flowers, they are much less serious. In fact, if ingested they will only cause mild gastrointestinal upset. They are commonly used in bouquets, sometimes along with the Lilium sp. Therefore not only is correct identification important, identifying all the flowers in a bouquet may be important as well.