Toxic plants

Is Jack-in-the-Pulpit Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Jack-in-the-Pulpit Toxic To Cats? 

Jack-in-the-pulpit plant, also known for its many other common names Three-leaved Indian turnip, Devil’s dear, Wake robin, Starch wort, Wild turnip, Dragon root, Bog onion, Pepper turnip, Brown dragon, and Memory root is a perennial herb that contains insoluble calcium oxalates just like the other members of the Araceae plant family.

Although the leaves of some species may have little or no poison, all portions of these plants should be considered dangerous. When animals eat the plant’s leaves, blossoms, or stems, calcium oxalate crystals penetrate and embed themselves in the mouth, tongue, throat, and stomach tissues, producing discomfort and aggravation, as one might imagine when millions of microscopic needles are trapped in one’s throat and mouth. These crystals will continue to penetrate the cat’s body until they have embedded themselves in the stomach and intestine.

What Is Jack-in-the-Pulpit?

Cat hisses at Jack-in-the-Pulpit

The jack-in-the-pulpit, scientifically known as arisaema triphyllum, is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows from a corm. It’s a highly varied species with three-part leaves and blooms housed in a spadix covered by a hood that grows 12 to 26 inches tall. This plant belongs to the Araceae family and is found in damp forests and thickets throughout eastern North America.

Trifoliate leaves develop in groups of three at the top of one long stem formed from a corm on Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants. The inflorescences are unevenly formed and grow up to eight centimeters in length. They are greenish-yellow in color, with purple or brownish streaks on occasion. The spathe, also known as “the pulpit” in this plant, wraps around and covers the spadix, or “Jack,” which is covered in tiny flowers of both sexes. Smooth, glossy green berries crowded on the thickened spadix are the fruits. Before the plants go dormant, the fruits ripen in late summer and fall, developing a beautiful crimson color.

Clinical Signs of Jack-in-the-Pulpit Poisoning in Cats

Jack-in-the-Pulpit and cats

Cats who ingested Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant may suffer from poisoning symptoms such as:

  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated eyes 
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Hoarse barking
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness of exposed area
  • Obstructed of the airway
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Swelling of the tongue and lips
  • Vomiting

First Aid and Treatment of Jack-in-the-Pulpit Poisoning in Cats

Cat sits near Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Immediate treatment will begin with flushing the cat’s mouth and affected areas with clean, cool water to eradicate the poisons. To aid your cat with swelling and pain, your veterinarian may prescribe an antihistamine or pain reliever.

Intravenous fluid therapy may be also administered to prevent dehydration. If an antihistamine has not been given previously, it may be given as an intramuscular injection. Gastroprotective medicines may be prescribed to avoid stomach lining injury. If your cat’s airway is considerably enlarged, he or she may need to be kept in the clinic for observation until the swelling goes down.

Recovery from Jack-in-the-Pulpit Poisoning in Cats

Most cats recover rapidly after being poisoned by Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Within twelve to twenty-four hours of intake, the unpleasant effects of the crystals in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract normally fade away. The liver and kidneys may need to be monitored more closely if significant amounts of the plant are consumed.

Prevention of Jack-in-the-Pulpit Poisoning in Cats

Observe your surroundings and be familiar with toxic plants that can harm your cat. If toxic plants are growing around your neighborhood, it is best to keep your cat safe indoors. Utilize cat cages and playpens especially if you are going out and leaving your cats at home.

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

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