Toxic plants

Is Lambkill or Sheep Laurel Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
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Is Lambkill or Sheep Laurel Toxic To Cats? 

Lambkill or sheep laurel is a flowering plant that contains arbutin glucoside and grayanotoxins such as andromedotoxin, acetylandromedol, rhodotoxin, and asebotoxin. Grayanotoxin causes heart and respiratory problems by acting on sodium ion channels and muscarinic receptors. Ingestion of lambkill may cause diarrhea, weakness, and cardiac failure in cats among other symptoms.

Lambkill also contains glycosides and is toxic in all parts, particularly its foliage. Turpentine, for example, is an andromedotoxin that burns the mouth, deterring potential victims from ingesting hazardous amounts. In case of lambkill poisoning, getting your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible is important to receive prompt treatment.

What Is Lambkill or Sheep Laurel?

Sheep Laurel with a cat hissing at it

Lambkill, sometimes known as sheep Laurel, is a heath family evergreen flowering plant endemic to North America’s moist bogs and swamps. Its scientific name is kalmia angustifolia and it can grow to be three feet tall and six feet wide, forming a dense carpet. Throughout the summer, pink flowers appear in clusters beneath the leaves. Because of the toxicity, grazing animals in the field may be concerned.

Clinical Signs of Lambkill or Sheep Laurel Poisoning in Cats

Sheep Laurel and cats

Common symptoms of lambkill or sheep laurel poisoning are:

Severe cases may also include the following clinical signs:

  • Loss of coordination 
  • Severe and progressive muscular weakness
  • Bradycardia 
  • Nodal rhythm or Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  • Coma
  • Death (in rare cases)

First Aid and Treatment of Lambkill or Sheep Laurel Poisoning in Cats

Sheep Laurel with a cat sitting in the background

The veterinarian will typically administer symptomatic and supportive treatment. If necessary, the vet will most likely induce vomiting. On the first day, activated charcoal may be given several times if a substantial amount of the plant has been consumed. Depending on your cat’s condition, respiratory support and fluid replacement therapy may be required. Atropine is frequently prescribed for severe bradycardia, whereas sodium channel blockers or isoproterenol may be used to treat heart block.

Recovery from Lambkill or Sheep Laurel Poisoning in Cats

Grayanotoxins are quickly digested and excreted, thus animals who have just taken a tiny amount will start to feel better within hours, and heart rate and blood pressure will normally return to normal within two to nine hours, with a full recovery expected in 24 hours. The prognosis in extreme cases is uncertain because the animal may improve or become comatose and die. 

Prevention of Lambkill or Sheep Laurel Poisoning in Cats

Avoid growing lambkill plants within the vicinity of your home. If these toxic plants exist in your neighborhood, it is better to keep your cat indoors for his or her safety. You can use cat cages or build fences and safety nets around your house to limit your cat’s access outdoors.

If you love plants but have cats at home, check out these lists:

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