Lily Toxicity

Lilies are gorgeous flowers. They’re fantastic in a bouquet or in your garden and, in some cultures, they’re considered a herb.

Which is all well and good if you’re human. But if you’re a cat, you don’t want to be anywhere near lilies. The flower, pollen, and leaves of lilies contain a toxin which, when eaten, can mess with your cat’s kidneys, gut, and brain in a big way. Worse, the toxin is water-soluble, so drinking water from a vase of lilies can affect your cat as well!

If you suspect your cat has had contact with any part of a lily, see your vet! If we catch it early enough, we can stop the toxin from getting into the system. It’s really important we do this. The damage the toxin does to the kidneys causes them to fail…and the effects are not always reversible. Signs that the kidneys are failing may only appear when 75% of function is gone. By the time you’ve detected there’s something off, it may be too late.

First things first:

Could your cat have been exposed to lilies? We’re looking out for signs like:

  • Not eating
  • Lethargy (being extra floppy for a cat)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Smelly breath
  • Drinking loads of water and using the litter box a lot
  • Seizures

If we see any of the clinical signs, blood tests are absolutely necessary. The results help us understand how best to manage your cat when it comes in – if the kidneys have been affected, how much? Is there anything else going on that will affect treatment? – and it can help us decide when your cat can leave the clinic.

Your furbaby will probably need to stay in the hospital depending on how severe the condition is.  One of the first things we may do is limit how much of the toxin is in the system. This can mean making your cat vomit, so we clear the lily from the cat’s system, or it can mean giving your cat a charcoal meal to limit absorption of the toxin in its gut.

Charcoal powder – imagine this with food! (source)

The mainstay of treatment is fluid therapy, which means we’ll be providing fluids to support the kidneys and prevent dehydration (which keeps the rest of the organs happy). Literally, the best thing we can do for your furbaby is to provide fluid therapy for at least 48 hours and, then, to perform another blood test to check how much damage has been done to the kidneys.

Lily toxicity can cause seizures and pancreatitis, sometimes as early as 8 hours after your cat has eaten the lily. These problems can complicate treatment, although they are manageable. It’s awful to have kidney problems, can you imagine having seizures and pancreatitis, too?

You should know …

In some cases, the kidneys are so badly affected that cats develop something we call “chronic kidney disease”. If this happens, we’ll help you understand the condition better and how you can help your cat can live a long healthy and happy life.


Prevention is better than cure. Keep your cat away from lilies!

If you think that your cat has been in contact with lilies, please seek veterinary help/treatment ASAP! If you have any further questions, please give us a call and chat to one of our pawesome staff members.

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Our team is here to answer your questions and get an appointment scheduled for you.

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