Toxic plants

Is Groundsel or Senecio Toxic To Cats?

Is Groundsel or Senecio Toxic To Cats? 
Written by Clair Chesterman

Groundsel plants or also known as senecio species are flowering plants that commonly grow in disturbed areas which should be avoided by cats due to their poisonous components. Like many other plants, groundsel plants create compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids as a form of protection from predators, however, the groundsel is one of the few that has a high enough toxic content to afflict animals.

The poisons in a groundsel plant will produce frequent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea in a cat, but as the body metabolizes the pyrrolizidine alkaloids over a number of days, they will begin to build up in the liver tissues and cause catastrophic harm.

What Is Groundsel or Senecio?

The groundsel plant is a tall herbaceous annual that can reach a height of 16 inches. The bracts bury the yellow disc florets, giving the blossoms an unappealing appearance. It has two circular lobes at the base of the stem and sub-clasping above, with rotating apex leaves throughout the plant’s length. Many Senecio species have open clusters of little cylinder-shaped rayless yellow blooms with a prominent ring of black-tipped bracts at the base of the inflorescence.

Clinical Signs of Groundsel or Senecio Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of groundsel poisoning typically start with a reoccurring gastrointestinal upset then may progress to more serious symptoms. 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Muddy mucous membranes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Behavioral changes
  • Sunburn of hairless areas of the body
  • Jaundice
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia
  • Liver damage
  • Neurological issues

First Aid and Treatment of Groundsel or Senecio Poisoning in Cats

The most common treatment for groundsel poisoning is to remove as much of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids as possible from the cat’s system. This means the vet may decide to use a stomach pump to remove any remaining plant fragments before delivering an activated charcoal dose to absorb any remaining poisons. He may also decide to commence hydration treatment for the cat. This requires utilizing an IV drip to directly inject fluids into the cat’s body, preventing dehydration and diluting the toxins present in the body at the same time. This will also cause urination, which will result in the expulsion of even more contaminants.

Recovery from Groundsel or Senecio Poisoning in Cats

Most cats will recover completely within a few weeks, but in some cases, continuous therapy and dietary adjustments will be required for the rest of their lives. Follow-up appointments with the veterinarian may be also required to check on your cat’s health condition. He will also suggest keeping the cat in the house for a while and providing it the most basic diet feasible. This will ensure that the cat’s digestive system receives plenty of rest and does not eat ingest any foreign substances while recovering.

Prevention of Groundsel or Senecio Poisoning in Cats

Most cats will recover entirely within a few weeks, but some will require ongoing treatment and dietary changes for the remainder of their lives. Follow-up sessions with your veterinarian may be necessary to watch your cat’s health. He will also suggest keeping the cat in the house for a while and providing it the most basic diet feasible. This will ensure that the digestive system of the cat has enough rest and does not eat or ingest any foreign items while it heals.

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About the author

Clair Chesterman

Clair Chesterman is a professional cat breeder having her own cageless CFA and CCA Registered cattery & fostering company FluffyMeowPaws in Eugene, Oregon. Clair is a plant enthusiast too and she made in-depth research on toxic and non-toxic plants for cats.

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