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Easter lilies often fatal to nibbling felines

March 18th, 2005, 07:03 AM

Friday, March 18, 2005 Globe and Mail

Are you about to buy an Easter lily to brighten up your home? Well, be warned. The plants can pose a health risk to at least one member of many households: the family cat.

Cats that eat even very small bits of the leaves or flowers of the Easter lily quickly develop kidney failure, which can be fatal, says Toronto veterinarian Dawn Crandell.

The cat might vomit shortly after eating the plant. The animal will lose its appetite and become lethargic. Its overall condition will rapidly worsen. Intervention by a veterinarian will be needed to prevent acute renal failure. If more than 18 hours elapses without treatment, the chance of survival becomes extremely slim, according to Dr. Crandell, who works at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic.

Easter lilies belong to the Liliaceae family, which includes other plants that are toxic to cats, such as the tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily and some varieties of day lilies.

There are numerous plants that can cause illness in pets. But the lily stands out as being extremely deadly to cats at very low doses. Staff at Dr. Crandell's clinic often treat cases of lily toxicity. "We see it more frequently as people bring Easter lilies into their houses at this time of year," she said.