Toxic plants

Is Poison Parsnip Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Poison Parsnip Toxic to Cats

Poison Parsnip is also known as water hemlock or cowbane. It is poisonous to dogs, cats, and horses. This plant contains cicutoxin which is a naturally-occurring poisonous chemical compound produced by several plants. This chemical rapidly acts on the central nervous system. The compound contains polyene, polyyne, and alcohol functional groups and is a structural isomer of oenanthotoxin, also found in water dropwort.

What Is Poison Parsnip?

Poison Parsnip and a cat hissing at it

Poison Parsnip came from the family of Apiaceae. It is an invasive plant native to Europe and Asia that grows in marshes and is widely distributed in North America. Its seeds are easily dispersed by wind and water. They are often confused with nonpoisonous members of the family such as wild carrots. It can reach a height of 1.5 meters and bears umbrella-shaped flower clusters. The stem is glabrous, hollow internode-jointed, swelling at the base, and transversely partitioned. Flowers are arranged in umbels that are complex. Pinnately complex leaves with well-defined leaflets.

There are several plants that look similar to poison parsnips such as Cow parsnip, Purplestem angelica, and Queen Anne’s-Lace (also known as Wild carrot).

Clinical Signs of Poison Parsnip poisoning in Cats

Poison Parsnip and cats

Five minutes after eating poison parsnip, most of the cats show poisoning symptoms. This will tend to increase with time so get your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible if you see any of the following indicators of poisoning:

  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Respiratory depression
  • Death (if left untreated)

First Aid and Treatment of Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

Poison Parsnip with a cat

Immediately remove your cat from the area, and make sure no other animals are exposed to this area. After your cat has been taken to a veterinarian’s office, treatment must begin right away. The vet will start by inducing vomiting to get rid of any residual plant matter in your cat’s stomach. Your cat will need to be regularly monitored by the veterinarian to ensure that he does not become dehydrated as a result of his vomiting. If your cat becomes dehydrated, he or she will require intravenous fluids to avoid further difficulties. To absorb any toxins that linger in your cat’s stomach, activated charcoal can be used. To flush out the stomach, the vet can do a gastric lavage, which is a stomach wash.  

Prior to treatment, it’s possible that your cat will need to be sedated. To prevent your cat from suffering from respiratory depression as a result of the poisoning, the vet may need to implant an oxygen tube down his throat.

Recovery from Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

The cat might die within as little as 15 minutes after consuming the poison parsnip. He will have better chances of making a full recovery if he receives immediate treatment. Cats that haven’t had any seizures yet have a better chance of recovering than those who have had a lot of seizures. The vet may need to continue monitoring the cat if the experienced dehydration or needs a respirator during treatment. 

Prevention of Poison Parsnip Poisoning in Cats

Make sure your cat doesn’t get too close to this plant. Remove poison parsnip from your yard with care, and tell others in your neighborhood to do the same. When viable seeds are available, avoid mowing areas with wild parsnip because machinery easily spreads seed to new places. Before switching from an area with wild parsnip to one without, clean your mowing equipment. 

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

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