Is Amaryllis Toxic to Cats?

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Amaryllis toxic to catsAmaryllis is a beautiful and flowering perennial native to South Africa. Its large, showy trumpet-shaped flowers make a popular display in homes, especially around Christmas. The plant blooms from late December to early June and can be found in a number of red to pink colours, often on a striped white background.

Family: Amaryllidaceae

Scientific name: Amaryllis

Other names: Hippeastrum, Belladonna lily, naked lady, resurrection lily, butterfly amaryllis, St Joseph lily

Level of toxicity:

Mild to moderate

All parts of the plant are toxic, bulbs have the highest concentration of calcium oxalate crystals and the leaves, stem and bulbs contain phenanthridine alkaloids.

Symptoms: 

Symptoms will vary depending on route of exposure (skin or ingestion), the amount ingested and which parts of the plant have been consumed.
Phenanthridine alkaloids (lycorine, haemanthamine, amaryllidine, tazzetine, hippeastrine, pancracine, vittatine)
Lycorine is the primary alkaloid responsible for gastrointestinal signs which include:

Other alkaloids are present in smaller amounts, and can cause:

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Lethargy
  • Respiratory depression
  • Tremors
Calcium oxalate crystals
These needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals are located in the tissues as a defense mechanism against herbivores (plant-eating animals).
  • Oral pain, drooling, gum swelling
  • Skin irritation if exposed to the sap
  • Abdominal pain

What should I do if my cat has been exposed? 

Contact your veterinarian or your local poisons helpline for advice.

Treatment: 

The treatment of choice for most types of poisoning is gastrointestinal decontamination (induce vomiting) if the exposure was recent. Other treatments may include:

  • Activated charcoal to bind to the remaining toxins in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Fluids to maintain hydration until the cat recovers
  • Nutritional support

Prevention: 

Keep plants and flowers which are toxic to cats out of the home, especially if your cat is prone to nibbling plants.

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