Toxic plants

Is Bitter Root or Dogbane Hemp Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Bitter Root or Dogbane Hemp Toxic To Cats? 

Bitter Root or also known as Dogbane Hemp and Indian Hemp is a perennial flowering herb that contains toxic amounts of glycoside-type chemicals cymarin, cyntoxin, and strophanthidin. These toxins are dangerous for cats and may cause them to experience diarrhea, weakness, and constipation among other symptoms.

What Is Bitter Root or Dogbane Hemp?

Cat sits near Bitter Root

Bitter Root is scientifically known as Apocynum androsaemifolium from the Apocynaceae family. It is a flowering plant with a branching stem, milky sap on broken stems, and hairs on the underside of the leaves. Bitter Roots can be found throughout the majority of the United States and Canada.

Clinical Signs of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats

Bitter Root and cats

Bitter Root poisoning in your cat can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Because the compounds in this plant are identical to those used to treat heart patients, ingesting it can induce circulation and other cardiac problems in your cat. The following are signs to look out for:

  • Diarrhea (with or without blood)
  • Slow heart rate
  • Arrhythmia or irregular heart rate 
  • Weakness
  • Cold limbs
  • Bradypnea or slow breathing

First Aid and Treatment of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats

Bitter Root with a cat in the background

Because just a small amount of bitter root is swallowed, most occurrences of bitter root poisoning in cats are fairly moderate. Since the plant is so fibrous, it is tough to eat for animals, including cats. Furthermore, as the name implies, the plant is bitter and thus unappealing. As a result, most animals ignore the plant, and only a few swallows enough to become seriously intoxicated.

The usual treatment of poisoning in cats will be provided by the veterinarian. This includes vomit induction and fluid therapy. The vet may also administer activated charcoal, and atropine depending on the severity of your cat’s condition. Other drugs and medications that can ease the symptoms may be also prescribed by the vet.

Recovery from Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats

Cats who suffered from Bitter Root poisoning recuperate quickly as long as he or she was given immediate medical attention. In some rare severe cases, there is a chance that the cat will suffer from long-term liver damage. 

Consult your veterinarian about your cat’s post-treatment care, and make sure to follow his or her directions carefully to help your cat recover quickly. Your veterinarian may urge you to give your cat more fluids and make dietary modifications. While your cat is healing from the poisoning event, keep him warm and comfortable inside your home and limit his or her activity.

Prevention of Bitter Root Poisoning in Cats

Ensure your cats’ safety inside your house by using cat play fences or cat houses. Keep them busy and happy indoors to minimize their stay outside your home and prevent them from straying far from your home. Remove bitter roots in your garden or yard if you have them. If bitter roots are grown in your area, make sure that your cat will not visit the place again to avoid poisoning incidents from happening again.

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

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