Is Dieffenbachia Toxic to Cats?

Cathy, my cutie feline, always roams around the house, so I have to assign my nephew to take care of it after school. 

I am always busy with quality control stuff and writing blog content, so I cannot help her with playing and feeding. 

This way, Cathy happens to mistreat several houseplants, and the latest incident was with Dieffenbachia. 

Generally, all species of Dieffenbachia have calcium oxalate crystals, highest in the leaves, releasing proteolytic enzymes with ingestion. These toxins can cause injury and acute burning sensation in the mucosa, stomach, and gastrointestinal tract, with final damage to the kidney in severe cases.

A pot containing Dieffenbachia plant on it with a cat sitting over the pot.
Getting in touch with any part of Dieffenbachia is toxic to cats.

I almost suffered a mini heart attack when Cathy took a few moments to respond.

But the good news is Dieffenbachia is mildly toxic to cats and can be cured with proper diagnosis and treatment.

So, if you want to avoid cats mistreating Dieffenbachia or rescue them if they have already consumed this plant, do not leave your sit until you finish this post. 

Is Dieffenbachia Toxic to Cats?

The wide, bushy leaves, with beautiful variegation of Dieffenbachia, have mesmerized gardeners with about 56 accepted varieties under Dieffenbachia.

Some widely loved varieties include Camille, Carina, Exotica, Delilah, and Honeydew for their great variegation.

And this very reason attracts cats to Dieffenbachia, but the sad thing, they are mildly toxic to cats.

According to ASPCA, Dieffenbachia (Tropic Snow, Giant Dumb Cane, Dumbcane, Exotica) are toxic to cats and dogs. 

The Dieffenbachia leaves, stalk, and roots contain insoluble calcium oxalate, forming needle-like, tiny crystals called Raphides.

dieffenbachia plant indoor
Commonly known as dumb cane, Dieffenbachia is a foliage houseplant that may harm cats.

The substance penetrates the mucosa membrane of the mouth and, subsequently esophagus when chewed and causes irritation and rashes if in contact with the sap. 

An article by the National Library of Medicine clearly states that Dieffenbachia can affect every domestic animal, but cats are relatively more sensitive to the toxins. 

So better keep Dieffenbachia away from the reach of your cats, whether it be the fallen leaves, stems, or stalks. 

Symptoms of Dieffenbachia Poisoning

Cats are notorious and explore each corner inside the house, mistreating whatever comes their way.

If you grow Dieffenbachia, they can end up chewing its leaves. Although they might throw leftover leaves, the symptoms of toxicity start to lay out.

Oral exposure to Raphides releases proteolytic enzymes, leading to respiratory distress, gastrointestinal irritation, and excessive drooling within minutes.

Here are some symptoms with spot identification that your cat may reveal in case of mild toxicity.

Common SymptomsHow to Check?
DroolingExcess salvation from mouth and jaw remains open
Appetite disordersNo desire to eat food anymore and moves away from the food
Abdominal discomfortThe pet is unable to sit in one position, shows the signs of vomiting, retching, licks at flank.
Difficulty in breathingThey take shorter and quicker breathes
Burning sensation on mouthFrequent pawing at their mouth and are crying out with mouth or tongue out due to painful mouth ulceration
Swollen mouthNoticeable abnormal enlargement of mouth and makes no sound of meowing
Weakness Move in weird way, is lethargic or hiding in a corner of the room
Rashes on skin The cats scratches the part that touched the plant part and redness is seen

In case of massive inhalation of parts of Dieffenbachia, the condition may worsen, leading to severe signs as below.

  • Severe gastrointestinal discomforts: The toxins from Dieffenbachia induces sensation in the stomach leading to diarrhea.
  • Convulsions: Your cat may show weird neck movement and suffer from seizures causing the eyelids to twitch and aggressive behavior.
  • Redness and blindness: If your cat unknowingly rubs the eyes with the sap-containing paws, it turns red and swells, causing problems in sight.
  • Aspiration: In severe cases, the cat suffers from choking, leading to difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, yellow nasal discharge and respiratory distress.
  • Liver failure: Disease associated with the liver starts to emerge, like anorexia (loss of appetite), Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), and blood clotting.
  • Coma: If not cared for on time, your cat might completely lose consciousness.

When the toxicity increases, Dieffenbachia gets mouth swollen, making it difficult for the cats to meow, called Dumbcane.

According to the National Scientific Conference Journal book, Kidney Tubular Necrosis can occur in severe cases. 

Diagnosis of Dieffenbachia Poisoning

Noticing the chewed plant part as soon as the cats put it in their mouths can help diagnose the toxicity.

However, given the fidgeting nature of cats, you cannot always keep your eyes on them.

So you can be smarter than the cats, look over the signs they leave behind for early diagnosis, and be sure whether it is really from Dieffenbachia or food poisoning.

1. DIY Diagnosis

Look for the listed signs to clarify whether your cat has fed on the Dieffenbachia plant.

  • The chewed part of leaves lingers around the area it feeds on and has leftovers inside its mouth.
  • Cuts and damages in the foliage and shoot part are observed in Dieffenbachia.
  • You can see signs of munching on the fallen leaves and leaves attached to the parent plant.
A cat is lying on the floor with a rope beside it and all the leaves spread on the ground.
Cats stay quiet after making mistakes that are visible even after chewing on the leaves.
  • Active cats start being lazy and weak in appearance.
  • Signs of digging around the plant in the pot and soil dust beneath the pot can also show whether your cat went near the plant.
  • Moreover, plants appear strangled and drooped if your cat has played with or around them.
  • Your cat will show some of the initial symptoms of toxicity, like itching, watery and red eyes, redness in skin and vomiting with continuous urination.

After inspecting all the signs, you can guess if your cat has undergone Dieffenbachia poisoning. 

2. Veterinary Diagnosis

Even if you have diagnosed the toxicity from the DIY, taking your cat to the veterinarian within 48 hours of ingestion is still recommended.

Remember to take your cat’s medical history to let the vet access previous experiences of your cat.

Also, it will be helpful in diagnosis to take the eaten part of plants to the veterinarian to make the process easier and faster.

A black cat is standing over a table and is looking at the equipment inside the cup board.
Veterinarian diagnosis helps to save your cat as soon as possible.

Here I have listed some most probable diagnoses veterinarians may make.

  • Recap Medical History: They check the medical record for immunity power, previous diseases, congenital disorders, and infection suffered by the cat.
  • Oral Examination: Vet will look over the mouth for any signs of swelling, redness, and leftover chunks of leaves.
  • Physical Examination: The cat may further go through some medical examinations, like abdominal palpation, body temperature, pulse rate, CT scans, X-rays, and fluorescein eye examination.
  • Blood Sample: Blood test for checking the presence of toxicity in the blood with a Complete Blood Count (CBC), blood gases, and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN).
  • Urinalysis: Urine test confirms the level of toxicity in the body and the presence of oxalate crystals in the body with renal functionality.

After doing all the tests, if the result is still unclear, they move towards the last step, Endoscopy.

Treatment for Dieffenbachia Poisoning

Early diagnosis is the key to saving the important feline member of your family, as the pain and injury from Dieffenbachia sustain for about two weeks if left unattended.

To prevent any mishap from occurring, follow the first aid home remedies and treatment tips.

1. First Aid Treatment

Here are some of the first aid tips you can do with home remedies to treat the minimal toxicity of Dieffenbachia.

  • Remove any leftover pieces of the plant part from the cat’s mouth and keep it safe for future use if you visit the veterinarian.
  • Wipe out the mouth with a wet, soft cloth.
  • You can also wash their mouth and eyes with distilled water.
  • You can wash the part with soapy, warm water for dermal exposure.
  • Feed the cat with milk and yogurt as it helps to subside the calcium oxalate crystals and cool down the sensation in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • You can feed the cat with activated charcoal to cleanse and detoxify the stomach in emergencies.
  • Immediately call the Pet Poison Helpline855-764-7661) for further precautions.

Do not induce vomiting in cats until recommended by the experts.

A picture having claws of cats in a circle with a box of first aid in the middle.
Having a pet first aid kit in an emergency is always useful.
  • If your cat vomits naturally, keep it aside from the reach of other pets and children.
  • Till the time help reaches, you can try to detoxify the stomach of cats by injecting activated charcoal syrup, one gram powder for any pound of cat.
  • However, if you are not an expert, wait for help and till then, keep it in a well-ventilated area.

Here I have listed some first aid kits containing every piece of equipment necessary for those having a pet.

Name of first Aids KitsBrand
Portable Compact First Aid KitJohnson & Johnson
Pet First Aid Cat KitRayco International
RC Pet First Aid KitRC Pet Products
Certified Pet First Aid KitNM2
American Supplies Pet First Aid KitAmerican Pet Supplies

If the Pet Poison Helpline is unavailable, you can try ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center ( 888-426-4435).

Providing first aid is always essential to control any disaster, but better to consult professionals instead of regretting later.

Watch the following video for further help!

2. Veterinary Treatment

In some cases, the toxic severity might not diminish only with first aid treatment.

So you might need to hurry and consult the professionals directly. Here is how they will proceed with the poisoned cats. 

  • Firstly, they induce vomiting by feeding hydrogen peroxide (1 tablespoon of 3% solution per 5-10 pound body weight).
  • After vomiting, Intravenous (IV) fluid is provided to increase the number of electrolytes and energize them.
  • Along with IV fluid therapy, medicines like antihistamines, antiemetics, metronidazole, and many more, as per the symptom, are fed to the cat.
  • In case of redness and burning in the eyes, they use sterile eye irrigation and eye relaxants to decrease the severity.

After learning the treatment, you might try to help your pet on your own but better to avoid it and let the expertise work.

Disclaimer! Above points are solely for information purposes so try only to feed the chemicals with the approval of veterinarians.

Recovery of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Cats

After consulting with the vet, the cats probably re-energize in about a day or weeks, depending on the consumption and severity.

Meanwhile, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control estimates that about twenty-five percent of pets recover within two hours.

So it entirely depends on the amount ingested by your cats.

To boost recovery, feed the cats with soft, liquid food as the toxicity makes the gastrointestinal tract sensitive.

Take a list of food from the vet to avoid any mistakes during recovery.

sleeping cat
Wrap the cat with a soft blanket to provide heat and make them feel safe.

Also, allow cats to rest as much as possible because animals save energy by having a sound sleep and rest.

How to Prevent Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Cats?

Given the nature of cats, it can be challenging to control their movements inside and outside the house.

Primarily, you can prevent the reach of cats to Dieffenbachia and divert the mind of cats with alternatives.

Here are some tips to keep your cat in check.

  • Change the location: Move the Dieffenbachia pots from the reach of cats, and keep your cat from roaming outside. Best to keep the plant inside a greenhouse, glass vivarium, or closed room.
  • Use cat repellents: Cat does not like the odor of plants like lavender, citrus, and rosemary and of oils like neem oil and peppermint oil, which will also act as a pest repellent.
  • Place sticky tapes: Cats do not like stickiness around their feet. So having the sticky part upside down helps to scare off the cat.
  • Use a hanging basket: Dieffenbachia can also be suitable as a hanging plant that helps keep the cats away.
A hanging pot contains the Dieffenbachia inside it.
Cats can not reach the plants kept on height and hanging.
  • Grow cat grass: Cat Grass is a mix of wheat, barley, and oats, grown in a pot to let the cat nibble on it with health benefits in consideration and helps to divert the attention of the cat.
  • Use cat repellent spray: Use cat and dog repellent that are safe to apply to your plants and cats.
  • Enrich the surrounding with toys: Cats are jolly pets and like to play all the time. So better to fill your house with toys to let your furry friend spend more time with them instead of plants.
  • Promote cat-friendly plants: Several houseplants are cat-friendly, like the Rattlesnake plant, Spider plant, Parlor Palm, etc. So you need not chase your cat all the time.

Conclusion

Dieffenbachia is undoubtedly a viable option for decoration, improving air quality, and low maintenance in houseplants.

However, with benefits comes the drawback of Dieffenbachia being toxic to cats and initiating life-threatening symptoms if not noticed earlier.

Making the cats and Dieffenbachia coexist can be tedious, but you know… The Things We Do For Love.

So while having the plant indoors, consider the option for the location with safety in mind.

Know more about the houseplants like Monstera and Kalanchoe for their toxicity in cats! 

Safe Planting!

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