Toxic plants

Is Burning Bush or Spindle Tree Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Burning Bush or Spindle Tree Toxic To Cats? 

Burning bush or also commonly known as Wahoo and Spindle Tree is found to contain alkaloids, cardenolides which are harmful to cats. Ingestion of burning bush may cause cats to experience vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, hallucinations, and weakness among other symptoms. If you caught your cat chewing or nibbling on a burning bush, go to a veterinarian right away.

What Is Burning Bush or Spindle Tree?

Burning Bush and a cat nearby

Euonymus atropurpurea is the scientific name of the burning bush which is from the plant family of Celastraceae that is native to eastern and central United States. The burning bush is a deciduous shrub with several stems that develops to be six to twelve feet tall. It has a dense branching habit and is frequently broader than tall.  The dark green, elliptical leaves turn to bright red-purple hues in the autumn, as if on fire. They grow outward in a horizontal direction and are positioned oppositely along the stems. 

Clinical Signs of Burning Bush or Spindle Tree Poisoning in Cats

Spindle Tree and cats

Symptoms of burning bush poisoning may not appear until a few hours after your cat’s system has fully absorbed it. Take note of the visible signs of poisoning as follows:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Coughing
  • Hypersalivation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation (may follow diarrhea)
  • Physical weakness
  • Increased body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Shock
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors
  • Exhaustion
  • Kidney and liver involvement (develops within 8 hours)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Bradycardia (slowed heart rate)
  • Tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heart rate)
  • Blindness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma (develops within 12 hours)
  • Cardiac arrest 
  • Death

First Aid and Treatment of Burning Bush or Spindle Tree Poisoning in Cats

Spindle Tree with a cat in the background

The veterinarian will restore lost fluids and electrolytes, induce vomiting if necessary, and inject activated charcoal in cases when only a little amount of the plant was swallowed. If necessary, the doctor may perform blood tests to assess your cat’s potassium and magnesium levels, as well as connect your cat to an electrocardiogram to monitor his heart activity. Other medication and laboratory tests may be administered by the vet depending on the severity of your cat’s condition.

Recovery from Burning Bush or Spindle Tree Poisoning in Cats

Your cat will totally recover as long as he or she received quick medical attention. Before you take your cat home after the veterinarian has discharged him, talk to him about your cat’s post-treatment needs. When you arrive home, follow the doctor’s instructions and make sure your cat has enough rest to recuperate quickly.

Prevention of Burning Bush or Spindle Tree Poisoning in Cats

Generally, the best way to prevent future cases of burning bush poisoning is to remove the said plant from your cat’s environment and limit his or her outdoor access to prevent contact with burning bush and other toxic plants in neighboring yards.

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

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