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Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Tulips

pet tulip poisoning

Tulips are beautiful, popular flowers that many of us have in our gardens. But it’s important to note that the Tulipa genus of flowers is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses and can be fatal if ingested. This is especially important if you have cats that go outside or dogs that are allowed access to tulips in the yard. Keep reading to learn what to do if your dog or cat eats a tulip.

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Why are tulips toxic to cats and dogs?

Tulips are from the Lily family and contain toxic glycosides. The toxin Tuliposide A or Tulipalin A is also present in hyacinths. Even people may have allergic, painful, and itchy rashes just from handling tulip and hyacinth bulbs. The toxin inhibits protein synthesis in cells.

The toxin concentration is highest in the bulb (the root of the plant) and lower in the stem, leaves, and flower portion of the plant. Most severe cases of toxicity occur from eating multiple tulip bulbs (dogs digging up your garden or getting into a bag of unplanted bulbs). Having said that, even a small nibble on tulip leaves or flowers can irritate the mucous membranes of the mouth and esophagus.

Clinical signs of tulip ingestion (small amounts):

Clinical signs of tulip ingestion (larger amounts, including bulbs):

  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increased respiratory effort (trouble breathing)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tremors
  • Coma

Sudden death can also occur. If you suspect your pet has eaten tulips in part or in whole, it’s important to get to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Treatment of Tulip Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

Treatment depends on how much your pet ate, when they ate the tulips, and how big your pet is. Decontamination and supportive care are imperative if your pet has eaten the bulb part of the plant. If the plant was recently consumed, your vet may induce emesis (cause vomiting to empty stomach contents), place an IV catheter, put your pet on supportive fluid therapy, and administer activated charcoal by mouth to absorb as much of the toxin as possible and prevent it from being absorbed.

Some pets may need several days of hospitalization or more invasive therapy, such as gastric lavage under anesthesia (washing out or “pumping” the stomach). Since there is no specific way to test for the amount of toxin ingested, and there is no specific antidote for Tuliposide A, hospitalization with supportive therapy and monitoring blood work is often necessary. Oxygen therapy and EKG monitoring of the heart may be necessary for more severe cases.

For more information and pictures of Tulips, check out these links:

ASPCA: Tulip

Pet Poison Helpline

Read more in our series of poisonous plants for your dog and cat:

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Philodendron

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Sago Palm

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Oleander

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your pet’s plant ingestion or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

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