Toxic plants

Is Skunk Cabbage Toxic to Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
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Is Skunk Cabbage Toxic to Cats

Skunk cabbage is poisonous to cats. The skunk cabbage plant, like other plants in the Araceae family, contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. In tiny dosages or two small bites, the skunk cabbage plant can induce mouth burning and swelling, as well as a choking sensation.

In some situations, eating big amounts of these leaves can be lethal. Although the leaves of some species may have little or no poison, all portions of these plants should be considered dangerous.

Idoblasts are unique cells found in these plants. Idoblasts are non-living cells found in a variety of plant species, both poisonous and non-poisonous, that contain non-living substances such as oil, latex, gum, resin, tannin, pigments, or minerals. Raphides, or bundles of needle-like calcium oxalate crystals that are dull on one end and sharp on the other, are one of these substances. The crystals are held together by a gelatinous material containing free oxalic acid.

What is Skunk Cabbage?

Skunk cabbage derives its name from the foul odor it produces. The plant uses this aroma to attract pollinators that are drawn to decomposing meat. When the plant is harmed, the aroma is more evident.

Eastern and Western Skunk Cabbage are the two most frequent varieties. The Eastern (scientific name: Symplocarpus foetidus) and Western (scientific name: Lysichiton americanus) varieties are purple and yellow, respectively. Both are perennial wildflowers that thrive in wetlands and swampy forest settings. Eastern Canada, the northeastern United States, Minnesota, Tennessee, and North Carolina are all home to the Eastern variety. Skunk Cabbage has been used in the United States to alleviate headaches and coughs. It was sold as dracontium, a medication that was used to cure a variety of diseases in the 1800s.

Clinical Signs of Skunk Cabbage Poisoning in Cats

Up to two weeks after intake, the following symptoms may persist:

  • mouth, throat, lips, and tongue burn intensely. 
  • excessive drooling  
  • throat choking and swelling 
  • swallowing dysfunction or difficulty (dysphagia)

These additional symptoms will occur if larger quantities have been ingested:

  • severe digestive upset
  •  extreme difficulty breathing
  • rapid shallow gasps (dyspnea)

First Aid and Treatment of Skunk Cabbage Poisoning in Cats

Treatment for calcium oxalate ingestion can usually be done at home. If your cat has consumed a plant that contains calcium oxalate, the mouth should be thoroughly cleaned and cleansed with water. The animal can then be fed yogurt, milk, cheese, or any other calcium-rich food to help relieve the pain by precipitating some calcium oxalate crystals. Most cats will recover completely within 12 to 24 hours of ingestion.

When a cat has more severe gastrointestinal upset, such as chronic vomiting and diarrhea, it should be closely examined for signs of dehydration and given fluid therapy if necessary. 

Recovery from Skunk Cabbage Poisoning in Cats

Sucralfate is administered to cats weighing more than 0.25g every 8 to 12 hours to relieve stomach and intestinal irritation. Your cat should be kept under observation at a veterinarian’s practice if the airway becomes closed due to swelling until the swelling subsides and the animal is breathing normally. Consult a veterinarian to avoid further intake of the herb.

Prevention of Skunk Cabbage Poisoning in Cats

Skunk cabbage should not be grown in the yard by cat owners. Allow no interaction between your cat and this species if you have one in your yard.

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

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