Larkspur is a perennial flowering plant that is considered toxic for cats as it contain cardiac glycosides, saponosides, and the ranunculoside derivative, protoanemonine. These toxins may cause gastrointestinal upset, breathing problems, cardiac symptoms, and nervous system disruption in cats.
After being eaten by an animal, protoanemonin is formed from the glucoside ranunculin by an enzymatic mechanism. This produces rapid irritation in the mouth, mucosa, and esophageal lining, which might lead to mouth and throat blisters or rashes. If the cat can tolerate larkspur and was able to consume a large quantity, he or she is at risk for digitalis-like symptoms caused by the cardiac glycosides helleborin, hellebrin, and helleborein. These can result in much more serious symptoms, such as neurological and cardiovascular abnormalities, which can eventually lead to death.
What Is Larkspur?
Larkspur is also known as Lark’s Heel, Lark’s Claw, and Knight’s Spur and is classified as a delphinium species. It is a perennial blooming plant belonging to the Ranunculaceae family, which contains over 300 species. It can be found across the Northern Hemisphere, as well as in tropical Africa’s high mountains. Some species are used in traditional and native plant gardens as decorative plants.
Larkspur leaves have three to seven toothed, pointed lobes that form a palmate shape. The main flowering stem is erect, and its size varies widely between species, ranging from 10 cm in certain alpine species to two meters in bigger meadowland species. Larkspur flowers are symmetrical on both sides and feature a large number of stamens. Most varieties have five petal-like sepals that grow together to form a hollow pocket with a spur at the end that gives the plant its name, which is usually dark blue.
Clinical Signs of Larkspur Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms of larkspur poisoning usually consist of gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiac, and neurological disturbances. Clinical signs may include:
- Excessive drooling
- Mouth and throat tingling
- Abdominal pain
- Labored breathing
- Bradycardia or slow irregular pulse
- Idioventicular rhythm
- Bundle-branch block
- Ventricular fibrillation
- Asystole or flatline
- Death due to respiratory collapse
First Aid and Treatment of Larkspur Poisoning in Cats
When a minimal amount of the larkspur plant is consumed, the treatment usually consists of induced vomiting or stomach lavage, followed by the administration of activated charcoal. The veterinarian may use antacids to treat gastrointestinal distress. The cat will be closely monitored to ensure that no more major clinical indications emerge.
It may be required to inject intravenous or intramuscular atropine to stabilize your cat if cardiac abnormalities are developing. Bradycardia can be treated with atropine, which is administered slowly through an IV. Monitoring kidney function is also critical, as is keeping a constant eye on heart activity for arrhythmias.
Recovery from Larkspur Poisoning in Cats
If the symptoms of poisoning are detected early and treated swiftly, your cat will have a greater chance of recovering. The chances of your cat recovering are poor if his or her symptoms were neglected or if he or she ate a substantial amount of larkspur.
Prevention of Larkspur Poisoning in Cats
You should remove larkspur from your property to prevent your cat from another incident of poisoning. Grow cat-friendly plants instead as an alternative so your cat can graze on it without the worry of toxication. If larkspur is known to grow in the area of your residence, outdoors should be off-limits to your cat.
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