Of the accidental emergencies with pets around holidays, we most often think of dogs eating chocolate or swallowing bones or of cats scaling Christmas trees and slipping out the door when guests arrive. But have you considered your holiday bouquets? Cats are notorious for munching on fresh plants in their homes, and one of the most common flowers in florist bouquets is the lily.
Lilies are poisonous to cats, yet a 2009 study found that only 29% of cat owners whose cats had eaten any variety of the plant already knew it was toxic when they brought them into their home. Any plants in the “true lily” or “daylily” families are extremely dangerous. Think stargazers, tiger lilies, calla lilies, peace lilies, etc. Whether you intend to decorate with floral arrangements this year, or you are gifted flowers by friends, it’s a matter of life and death to not keep any kind of lily in your home.
Munching on just a very small part of a lily can easily result in total kidney failure. Every part of the plant is highly toxic—even the pollen which might get onto your cat’s fur as it walks by the flowers on a coffee table, then he or she grooms later, ingesting it. The water in the vase is also poisonous.
Kidney damage may be reversible up to as much as 18 hours after ingestion with emergency care, but damage begins much sooner than that. It’s critical to rush your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you discover that it has eaten any portion of a lily. This is not a “wait and see” situation.
We aren’t always lucky enough to see events happen, so here are signs to look for. If you know you have lilies in your home, and you identify these symptoms, see your vet immediately.
Dogs also run into trouble with lilies, and you should seek veterinary guidance if they ingest any. Dogs are less likely to suffer acute kidney injury to the magnitude that cats do, but they can still become extremely ill with dangerous heart arrhythmias depending on which type of plant was eaten. Any lily can cause gastrointestinal upset and irritation to the mouth and throat.