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Vet Tech Corner: Lilies and Cats
While April showers may bring May flowers, the Easter bunny brings lots of lily exposures. In 2015, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center handled 763 cats exposures to a true lily, either Lilium or Hemerocallis sp.
According to one study, 73% of owners whose cats were exposed to a lily didn’t even realize the plant was toxic to their pets.
Both Lilium sp. and Hemerocallis sp. 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.
While it only takes a small exposure to potentially cause acute kidney injury, if the exposure is caught quickly, steps can be taken to ward off life-threatening problems. It should be noted that if treatment is started more than 18 hours post-exposure, the renal damage might be irreversible.
Any cat with an exposure to any part of the lily should be on IV fluid diuresis for 48 hours. Renal values and electrolytes should be monitored. The cat should be monitored for the development of pancreatitis as well.
Other supportive care for GI upset should be considered as needed. For cats who develop acute renal injury, a biopsy can be done to see if the basement membrane is still intact.
If it is intact, there is a good chance that the cat’s renal function can be saved, but it will require hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis until the kidney has had a chance to regenerate.
Unfortunately, dialysis is not always possible, as it is expensive and not widely available.