The Pacific Yew is toxic to cats due to the two volatile oils discovered within the plant, Taxine A and Taxine B. These substances are known as direct cardiac myocyte calcium and sodium channel antagonists and cause Pacific yew poisoning in cats. They’re robust, disrupting sodium and calcium channel currents in the heart, similar to how verapamil (a calcium channel blocker) does.
Taxines A and B function by enlarging your cat’s blood arteries and changing the degree to which the heart’s muscle fibers shrink when stimulated by an electrical signal. These volatile oils can also cause your cat’s blood pressure to drop by suppressing vascular smooth muscle contractions. Your cat’s heart beats to a halt, resulting in death.
What Is Pacific Yew?
The Pacific yew is a small evergreen conifer or shrub that grows 10 to 15 meters tall and has a trunk up to 50 centimeters in diameter, rarely more. In some cases, trees with heights of more than 20 meters can be found in parks and other protected areas, most often in gullies. The tree grows slowly and has a habit of rotting from the inside out, resulting in hollow forms. This makes accurate ring counts determining a specimen’s true age difficult, if not impossible.
The Pacific yew, scientifically known as Taxus brevifolia, is a yew tree species native to North America’s Pacific Northwest. Native Americans traditionally employed rot-resistant wood to manufacture tools, bows, arrows, and canoe paddles. Harpoons, fishhooks, wedges, clubs, spoons, drums, snowshoes, and arrowheads were also made from yew. The foliage of Pacific Yew was commonly used for medicinal purposes.
Clinical Signs of Pacific Yew Poisoning in Cats
The oil irritants in Pacific Yew normally cause acute gastroenteritis, which includes vomiting and diarrhea, but this is less likely to happen because the animals may first suffer from heart arrest. The common indicators of Pacific yew poisoning in cats include:
- Breathing problems
- Acute heart failure
- Dilated pupils
- Sudden death
First Aid and Treatment of Pacific Yew Poisoning in Cats
To aid in the removal of the toxin from your cat’s system, your veterinarian may induce vomiting. However, due to heart and neurological system difficulties, inducing vomiting in cats who have taken large doses of the herb may not be viable. In this case, gastric lavage may be performed instead.
Intravenous fluid treatment is essential particularly for cats who suffered from severe vomiting and diarrhea. The doctor may also give your cat medications for seizure prevention and gastrointestinal protection. Depending on the severity of your cat’s symptoms, further treatment options may be also considered.
Recovery from Pacific Yew Poisoning in Cats
If cats have only consumed a small amount of the herb, they should be able to recover. In cases of massive dosage intake, however, the outlook is grave. A better prognosis depends on prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Make sure you follow your veterinarian’s food recommendations to ensure your cat is getting adequate nutrition while recovering. The speed with which your cat was treated will impact how quickly he or she recovers.
Prevention of Pacific Yew Poisoning in Cats
Stay away from places where Pacific yews are known to be growing. Lessen your cat’s outdoor activities by keeping them occupied and stimulated at indoors. Familiarize yourself with toxic plants and be vigilant if there are some growing in your surroundings.
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