Houseplants deadly to pets

Leave ’em out: The houseplants posing a deadly danger to pets

Kiwis love to share their homes with green and furry friends – but experts warn that can be a fatal combination. Virginia Fallon reports.

It was a strange sort of walk that tipped Merry’s owners off something was very wrong with their cat. The few times she’d vomited earlier in the day hadn’t worried them too much, but later in the evening the way she stumbled unco-ordinated across the lounge set alarm bells ringing.

‘‘We actually thought she’d had a stroke or something wrong with her brain,’’ Suzanne says of the indoor cat she adopted from the SPCA nearly two years ago.

‘‘The last thing we suspected was a bloody plant.’’

Pets and plants have long been important members of many New Zealand homes, but the two don’t always live together in harmony.

And just as the pandemic and Instagram have seen the popularity of houseplants – and their prices – soar, experts warn our green friends can pose a deadly danger to our furry ones.

Hayley Hunt, veterinary pathologist at Massey University, says plant poisoning is generally less common than that caused by rat bait, snail bait or chocolate toxicity, although cases may go unreported or under-diagnosed as the signs can be subtle.

Essentially, the problem is some plants contain toxins that when eaten can cause a wide range of issues from a mild mouth irritation to gastrointestinal issues, and even fatal damage.

Of the latter, Hunt says true lilies pose the most dangerous risks to cats.

‘‘Within a few hours of eating lily leaves or flowers, licking pollen, or even drinking water the flowers are in, cats can lose their appetite, become lethargic and vomit.

‘‘These types of lilies also damage the kidneys, and within 12-24 hours cats can become very ill and may start to drink and urinate more. In severe cases, this can lead to kidney failure and be fatal.’’

Signs of serious poisoning can include vomiting and diarrhoea (sometimes with blood in), drowsiness, weakness, and seizures. The toxin in sago palms causes liver damage that can lead to abnormal bruising and/or bleeding and yellow discolouration of the eyes and/or gums.

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