Ask the RV Vet
With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
Last week we asked if your dog was on monthly heartworm prevention. This week it’s the cat’s turn. If you have a cat, please take a moment to answer the poll below. Thank you!
Dear RV Vet,
Every year at Easter, my mother-in-law gives us an Easter lily. I’ve heard that they are poisonous for dogs and cats, and we now have a cat. Is this true? —Karen S.
Unfortunately, that is true, especially for cats. Your question got me thinking about other plants that may be harmful to the pets that we may have in our RVs. The list can be extensive, so I’ll focus on the more common ones. But remember, some plants are called many different names. Make sure you know what a plant is before bringing it into your RV. And, unless otherwise noted, you can assume the toxicity applies to both dogs and cats.
• Lilies—The holidays sometimes have us bringing plants into our RVs that we don’t usually have. Easter lilies are a good example. But if you have a cat, don’t keep any kind of lily. Easter lilies, tiger lilies, day lilies … ingestion of the leaves or flowers can cause kidney failure and/or death in your cat. As few as 2-3 leaves can be lethal. Symptoms of this poisoning include vomiting, increased urination and lethargy. Death can occur up to four days after ingestion. Dogs may experience only mild digestive upset.
• Amaryllis—Sometimes called the Belladonna lily, the flowers are beautiful but the bulb is quite toxic. Signs of toxicity are similar to the lilies: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, depression.
• Aloe—Ironic, isn’t it, that a plant many of us keep for treating burns and mild skin irritation can be toxic to our pets? The good news is that it’s thought to be only mildly toxic. Still, if you see your pet nibbling on it, move the plant to a place your pet can’t reach.
• Philodendrons—These are very common indoor plants and there are hundreds of different species. The problem with them starts when your pet bites into a leaf. Almost immediately a chemical is released that irritates the mouth and may cause an upper airway problem from swelling of the membranes. Your pet may paw at its mouth and salivate, but rinsing their mouth with water may help dilute the chemical.
• Elephant ears—This plant grows too large to be in most RVs, but some of us may have them on a patio. As the name implies, the leaves are huge. Biting into one can cause oral irritation, difficulty swallowing and vomiting.
Pet Doc on the air this coming Wednesday
Dr. Deanna will appear live this coming Wednesday on the syndicated radio program, The RV Show USA between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Pacific Time. That’s 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The show is taped live on Facebook to be broadcast later on radio stations across the USA. You can watch the live taping by clicking here. During the show, please call in with your questions for Deanna at 1-855-296-7469.
• Asparagus fern—This is a popular indoor plant for those without a green thumb because it is very easy to keep alive. However, the red berries are toxic to our pets, causing vomiting and abdominal pain.
• Jade plant—Also known as a rubber tree, this plant is also an easy keeper, but if your pets eat the succulent leaves, they could suffer from vomiting and possibly a heart condition called bradycardia (slow heart rate).
• Dieffenbachia—This plant is nicknamed “dumb cane” for a reason. If your pet chews on the leaves, a chemical is released that burns the tissues in the mouth and tongue, which can lead to breathing difficulty and possibly death.
• Poinsettia—Here’s another holiday plant that can be a problem for our pets, but the symptoms are generally mild. They include irritation to the mouth and stomach, sometimes vomiting.
LATEST PET RECALLS:
More recalls on raw food diets for dogs and cats, and some treats, too. Is your pet food on the list?
A friend shared a sad story with me recently. She knew a woman, Linda, who went to a funeral. The deceased had no family and the funeral director asked if any friends were interested in taking home some of the flowers. Linda brought home a large bunch of beautiful cut flowers that, unfortunately, included Asiatic lilies. Linda’s cat ate some of the lily petals, and she died from kidney failure within a few days.
It may be tempting to bring some of these beautiful spring flowers into our RVs. Just be careful that your pets don’t ingest any part of them. The list includes:
• Tulips • Hyacinths • Daffodils • Any lily • Crocus
• Lily of the Valley • Foxglove • Narcissus
What should I do if my pet eats any of these plants?
Get to a veterinary facility as soon as you can. By the time you notice symptoms, it will be more difficult to help your pet. If you see your cat eating a lily, don’t wait for symptoms to show up. This is a medical emergency. If you see your dog or cat eating any kind of plant, indoor or outdoor, take the time to try identify it, and make sure it isn’t toxic. If you can’t identify the plant, try to get a sample and take it with you to a veterinary hospital. If a hospital isn’t close-by, call the Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661.
The ASPCA has a website that shows toxic and non-toxic plants for both dogs and cats, with good photos of all the plants to help you with identification. You can find it here.
Last week we asked you if your dog was on monthly heartworm prevention. This week it’s the cat’s turn. If you have a cat, please take a moment to answer the poll:
Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com
Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for over 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She travels with a fifth wheel and a 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs (Tootie, Chiquita, BooBoo, and Janie), and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot named Toby. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner.
I need a vet to prescribe heart worm so I can buy my supply on line. Can someone please email me email@example.com to let me know how I can buy heartworm pills without a prescription.
All heartworm prevention is a prescription. Your pet MUST be tested before it can be prescribed. (See why in the above article). No ethical veterinarian will sell you the prevention without a test, or without receipts showing you have given it for the last six months. The thing to remember about a heartworm test is this: your dog can test negative on the day of the test, but the very next day it could be bit by the mosquito carrying heartworm. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for writing!
Veterinarians in our area have never suggested heartworm prevention for cats. Chico, California. Do the cats need it? How is it administered?
Good questions! Remember, mosquitoes are the key to transmission of heartworms to dogs and cats. So theoretically, wherever they are, the possibility of heartworm exists.
Also remember, unlike with dogs, there is no treatment for cats that become infected. To me, that means it is almost MORE important to give cats monthly prevention.
Even though infected cats typically have far fewer heartworms than dogs, AND, even though the worms may live only a few years, they can still damage not only the heart but also the lungs.
Ask your veterinarian about the incidence of heartworm in DOGS in your area. If he/she recommends that dogs be on the prevention, you should seriously consider giving it to your cat. There is one caveat about this: the only way to know if there is heartworm in pets is to test, test, test. If your veterinarian doesn’t recommend testing dogs, he/she may not have a very good idea of heartworm prevalence in your area. You might contact several animal hospitals in your area to see what their recommendations are.
The prevention is a chewable, like a treat, that is given once a month. It is inexpensive compared to its benefits; not only does it prevent heartworms, it can prevent/treat some intestinal worms.
Thank you for writing!