The genus Nightshade contains approximately 2,300 flowering plants that are considered hazardous to cats. Atropine, hyoscine, and hyoscyamine are anticholinergic tropane alkaloids found in all parts of the nightshade plant. This plant is known to have a lengthy history of use as a toxin and a medicine.
The alkaloid Atropine, which interacts with the parasympathetic division of the central nervous system, is the key component that makes nightshades so dangerous. Atropine inhibits the ability of one nerve cell to receive messages from another by blocking receptors. Ingesting nightshade is a medical emergency in cats, as it can result in death. A serious illness will set in for up to four days at the very least.
What Is Nightshade?
Nightshades or scientifically known as solanum species are annuals or perennials and range in size from small herbs to small trees. They are a genus of about 2,300 species of flowering plants in the Solanaceae family. Nightshade is characterized by alternate leaves that can be simple or pinnately compound and usually feature glandular or non-glandular trichomes or plant hairs. Nightshade flowers have five petals that are often fused and usually comes in different hues of white, yellow, or purple and are borne in clusters. It produces a berry-like fruit that contains most of the toxins particularly if unripe.
Clinical Signs of Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
Symptoms usually don’t appear until six to twelve hours after ingestion. The following are common symptoms of nightshade poisoning:
- Anticholinergic effects
- Abdominal pain
- Vision problems
- Increased aggression
- Burning sensation in the throat
- Loss of sensation in the extremities
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive drooling
- Cardiac abnormalities
- CNS depression
- Inability to excrete body waste
First Aid and Treatment of Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
During treatment, the major goal is to address all symptoms and support the respiratory system. Procedures such as producing vomiting, providing activated charcoal, and intravenous hydration therapy may be performed by the veterinarian. If the situation is serious, feeding tubes and oxygen supplements may be required. If the cat is having seizures, the vet may administer diazepam. The veterinarian may recommend other medications and perform other procedures as needed by the cat.
Recovery from Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
Fortunately, due to decreased intake of the toxin after initial signals of toxicity, eating of the plant is frequently self-limiting. However, poisoning can be lethal if it causes respiratory difficulty or substantial organ damage. It is not rare for cats to die suddenly after ingestion of a large quantity of nightshade. In most cases, immediate treatment improves the prognosis, and cats should recover completely within 24-36 hours.
Prevention of Nightshade Poisoning in Cats
Avoid growing nightshades within your property. Staying indoors would be best for your cat to lessen the risk of another exposure to nightshades and even other toxic plants that are growing in your surrounding areas.
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