Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is a perennial plant (grows back every year) that has small bell-shaped white flowers that are beautiful and fragrant. The plant also produces berries. It is not a true Lily, many of which are also toxic to animals, but it is still toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. It can be fatal within hours if not treated immediately. Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of Lily of the Valley toxicity in dogs and cats.
What is Lily of the Valley?
Lily of the Valley originated in Europe but exists in many U.S. states, mostly in the East (PA, VT, NH, VA). Although it tends to grow low to the ground, it can grow up to two feet in height. Flowers bloom in late spring through the summer months.
The most common species of Lily of the Valley in the United States are:
- C. majalis Albostriata
- C. majalis Berlin Giant
- C. majalis Green Tapestry
- C. majalis Rosea
- C. majalis Flore Pleno
Why is Lily of the Valley poisonous to dogs and cats?
Lily of the Valley contains 38 different cardenolides (cardiac glycosides) which irritate the gastrointestinal tract as well as disrupt the heart’s normal activity. All parts of the plant are toxic, including the bulb, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and berries. A higher concentration of cardiac glycosides resides in the bulb. In addition, the Lily of the Valley contains saponins, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, and abdominal pain.
Clinical signs of Lily of the Valley toxicity in dogs and cats may include:
- Hypersalivation (excessive drooling)/nausea
- Inappetance - decreased or absent appetite
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- Bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Dilated pupils
- CNS (central nervous system) depression (lethargic, obtunded)
- Ataxia (drunken walk, unsteady gait)
- Weakness and collapse
What should I do if my dog ate a Lily of the Valley plant?
If you suspect that your pet may have ingested the Lily of the Valley plant in part or in whole, see a veterinarian immediately, as your pet’s life may be in danger. Prognosis depends on the size and health status of the pet, the amount consumed, and the part of the plant that was eaten. Although all parts are toxic, consumption of the bulb may lead to death within a couple of hours.
How is Lily of the Valley toxicity treated in dogs and cats?
With this particular plant, inducing emesis (administering a medication to cause your pet to vomit) is not advised since the plant is absorbed so quickly. However, gastric lavage (washing out the stomach under general anesthesia) may be performed by your veterinarian. Activated charcoal can be administered orally to absorb any remaining toxins.
Blood work will be done to evaluate your pet’s status, including a complete blood count, biochemistry, electrolytes, and urine if possible. Your vet will likely hospitalize your pet to monitor (heart rate, blood pressure, oxygenation, etc.) and administer supportive care (fluids, electrolytes, gastroprotectants, anti-nausea medication, oxygen, medications to correct arrhythmias, etc.).
If your pet was treated for ingestion of Lily of the Valley in a timely fashion without serious consequences, they may be hospitalized for a couple of days before returning home. Ensure that they have a quiet place to rest and recover without other pets, kids, noise, and chaos around them.
For more information and pictures of Lily of the Valley, check out these links:
Read more in our series of poisonous plants for your dog and cat:
Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Azalea
Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Dieffenbachia
Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Philodendron
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