Except for the seed coat, all components of the yew tree are deadly for cats. There are several poisons present, however the most harmful chemical found in the yew plant is cardiotoxic taxine alkaloids. In the winter, the amounts of this hazardous chemical are greater. Even when dried, yew tree material is hazardous, and dried plant bits that fall off of domestic décor may be utilized as toys or tested by your cat, posing a serious risk. Because taxine is so toxic and cats are such little creatures, even a small bit of the plant can be fatal.
What Is Yew?
Yew is a popular name for several tree species. The term is most commonly applied to any of the numerous coniferous trees and shrubs in the genus Taxus, such as European yew or common yew (Taxus baccata), Pacific yew or western yew (Taxus brevifolia), Canadian yew (Taxus canadensis), Chinese yew (Taxus chinensis), Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata), Florida yew (Taxus floridana), Mexican yew (Taxus globosa) and many others.
Another native tree revered by the Druids before Christianity was the yew tree. They undoubtedly noticed the tree’s durability and regrowth. Drooping yew tree branches can root and create new trunks where they contact the ground. As a result, the yew came to represent death and resurrection in Celtic culture.
The toxicity of the yew has limited its practical usage in humans, albeit a homoeopathic tincture of young branches is created. Herbalists have utilized berry meat to cure a range of diseases, including cystitis, headache, and neuralgia. Scientists have recently discovered that yew extracts contain anti-cancer effects.
Clinical Signs of Yew Poisoning in Cats
Yew poisoning symptoms in cats appear abruptly and worsen quickly. Symptoms may include the following:
- Weakness, muscle tremors
- Respiratory distress, rapid breathing
- Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
First Aid and Treatment of Yew Poisoning in Cats
Because yew tree poisoning proceeds swiftly and death occurs shortly after consumption, the chance for full recovery is not usually feasible. If found early, induced vomiting will help eliminate as much of the plant as possible from your cat’s stomach contents. Gastric lavage is another alternative for removing plant matter from your cat’s stomach. Activated charcoal can bind to yew plant components in the stomach and help them move through the gastrointestinal tract with low absorption.
Additional supportive care may be undertaken, such as intravenous fluid therapy to manage blood pressure and a ventilator for respiratory distress. To counteract cardiac arrhythmia, your veterinarian may prescribe Atropine sulfate. Other drugs for seizure control and other neurological problems may also be prescribed.
Recovery from Yew Poisoning in Cats
Unfortunately, yew plant poisoning in cats and other animals is typically severe, with little chance of effective intervention. If your cat is treated quickly and aggressively for yew poisoning and recovers, he or she may require careful monitoring and supportive care for many days. Intravenous fluids and other medications may be necessary to address symptoms during recovery.
Prevention of Yew Poisoning in Cats
Limit your cat’s outside access to avoid yew poisoning. Keep yew tree leaf decorations out of your home and look for alternative decorations.
If you love plants but have cats at home, check out these lists: