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Is Foxglove Poisonous To Cats?

Are you wondering whether your favorite herbal garden plant, foxglove is poisonous to cats?

Is your cat puking after nibbling on the foxglove blooms? The chances are it is suffering from accidental poisoning.

Foxglove is highly poisonous to cats, including the leaves, flowers, and seeds of the plant, which contain cardiac glycosides, deslanoside, and digitoxin/digoxin and produce vivid symptoms, even leading to death.

However, the poisoning in cats can be treated when caught early!

Learn about popular herbal plants, their toxicity, symptoms, and possible treatments.

Is Foxglove Toxic to Cats?

Did you know the chemicals retained from the foxglove plant are used as the prescription drug ‘Digoxin’ for congestive heart failure and oedema?

Scientifically known as Digitalis purpurea, the medical flowering plant native to Europe is often found growing in many gardens with a temperate or warm climate, making it accessible to humans and pets.

In fact, a curious cat will be attracted by its tall spikes and colorful bell-shaped flowers, so much so that they would nibble on it.

Image represents colorful varieties of Foxgloves
According to ASPCA, consuming any part of the foxglove plant can be severely toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

The principal toxic compound, cardiac glycosides, found throughout the plant will enter through the mouth and start inhibiting cell membranes from pumping sodium out, leading to excess calcium buildup.

As a result, your cat will succumb to the poisoning quickly and start displaying signs of poisoning.

Therefore, consuming any part of the foxglove plant, including dried or decayed blooms, is a No-No!

Which Part of Foxglove is Poisonous?

Although the plant above the ground is often used for making medicinal drugs, the entire plant is categorized as toxic.

All parts of the plant contain toxic compound cardiac glycosides, but the concentration may vary, with higher concentrations typically found in the leaves and seeds compared to flowers.

Leaves-They contain highest concentration of cardiac glycosides, especially younger leaves have higher toxicity levels than the mature or dried leaves.
-Ingesting a single leaf can invite mild to severe toxicity.
Flowers-While they contain lower concentrations of cardiac glycosides, they are still be considered toxic.
-Ingesting multiple flowers can lead to mild toxicity.
Seeds-The seeds produced by dying foxglove flowers also contain high-dosage of toxic compounds.
-Ingestion of a significant number of flower with seeds can result in poisoning.

Remember, toxicity usually occurs through oral exposure or ingestion and sometimes skin contact, where ingestion is the most common route of poisoning.

Note: The severity of toxicity may depend on various factors, including the cat’s sensitivity, the amount ingested, and the type of toxic plant.

What Amount of Foxglove is Poisonous to Cats?

Even a tiny yet lethal dosage of foxglove poison can cause severe cat symptoms.

When medicinally used, cardiac glycosides increase the strength and efficiency of heart contractions but can be dangerous in excessive amounts.

However, the exact amount of foxglove poisonous effect can vary depending on the cat’s size, weight, and health.

In general, ingesting a single young leaf or seeding flower will release a significant amount of glycosides, leading to severe symptoms.

foxglove poisoning
Young blooms and roots may cause low to mild poisoning, depending on the amount consumed.

Cats are usually more sensitive to the toxic effects of cardiac glycosides than other pets.

Did you know there are approximately 232,000 cases of pet poisoning annually in the US, without a significant number indicating feline poisoning?

Therefore, the best way to assess the effect of poisoning is to determine the early symptoms present in your cat.

Symptoms of Foxglove Poisoning in Cats

Be wary of your cat’s unusual signs, which may indicate foxglove poisoning symptoms.

Some tell-tale signs that cats suffering from poisoning may exhibit hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhoea, skin irritation, and depression, which may appear within minutes or hours after ingestion.

Similarly, some mild symptoms will help you determine the progression of the poisoning.

Early SymptomsMid Symptoms
Gastrointestinal Disturbances: The earliest signs include vomiting and diarrhea, which may occur shortly after ingestion.Irregular Heartbeat: The progressing poisoning leads to irregular heart rhythms, a rapid or slow heart rate, which can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian.
Loss of Appetite: Decreased interest in food is another preliminary sign of poisoning.Changes in Respiration: Abnormal breathing patterns, such as rapid or shallow breathing.
Lethargy: They become unusually tired or weak, showing decreased physical activities.Weakness: The weakness is different from lethargy which may prologne for hours, causing imbalanced movement.

When failed to treat in time, the poisoning in the cat will progress to a severe stage with vivid tell-tale signs.

It is crucial to remember that foxglove poisoning can progress rapidly, even within a day, and the symptoms can vary from cat to cat.

1. Collapse

Most cats experience a sudden collapse due to the increasing impact of cardiac glycosides on the heart’s functioning.

Their heart may struggle to maintain a regular rhythm and pump blood effectively, leading to a decreased oxygen intake.

2. Seizures

Seizures or convulsions, and abnormal electrical activities in the brain, are expected as the poisoning progresses.

It may cause involuntary muscle contractions, loss of consciousness, and sometimes violent thrashing movements, which can be life-threatening for cats.

3. Cardiac Arrest

In extreme cases, foxglove poisoning can severely disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm, leading to cardiac arrest.

It is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency medical treatment, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Treatment of Foxglove Poisoning in Cats

Remember, any suspected ingestion of foxglove should be treated as a medical emergency, and immediate medical or veterinary attention should be sought.

DIY Diagnosis of Foxglove Poisoning

The first step to effective treatment is to diagnose foxglove poisoning symptoms in cats.

  • Check for any plant residues or leftovers inside your cat’s mouth, wearing protective gloves.
  • Retrieve the residue and save them in plastic bags to show to the veterinarian later.
  • Next, look out for dead, decayed, or chewed up, swatted leaves, flowers, or stems nearby the plant.
  • Alternatively, look for half-eaten, chewed-up, or broken leaves, stems, and flowers.

If your cat has vomited, you may need to look through the waste for chewed-up plant parts.

First Aid for Foxglove Poisoning in Cats

Prompt medical intervention is essential for the treatment of foxglove poisoning in cats.

Therefore, you can start by administering first aid treatment to prevent further progression.

  • Get your cat to a well-ventilated, open area with light to ensure easy breathing.
  • Gently rinse off your cat’s mouth with saline, milk, or clean water to remove any plant residue.
  • Immediately call up your veterinarian or pet poison centre to inform them about the situation. Follow their instructions for further guidance.
Contact Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA) at (888) 426-4435.
  • Do not induce vomiting in your cat unless instructed by a veterinarian. Although rare, inducing vomiting can cause further harm or complications in cats.
  • Remove the cat from the area to a well-ventilated place to prevent breathing complications.
  • To remove residue, gently rinse their mouth with fresh water, salt water, or milk.
  • Wrap them in a towel to prevent moving their limbs as they can touch their mouth or even scratch you.

Having a first-aid kit at home will come in handy in such situations. Here are some ideas.

First Aid KidBrand
Arca Pet KitARCA
Rayco First AidRayco International Ltd
Pet First Aid KitNM2 New Market Squared

Veterinary Treatment for Foxglove Poisonous

In any case, you should take your cat to the vet for immediate medical intervention.

The veterinarian will assess the cat’s vital signs and stabilize its condition, including administering oxygen, providing IV fluids, and assessing their heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.

  • Depending on the severity, they would induce vomiting using activated charcoal to help absorb the remaining toxins in your cat’s GI tract.
  • Once the danger of poisoning is removed, supportive care will be provided to reduce other complications, involving medications to stabilize the heart rhythm, manage seizures, etc.
  • Remember, they may observe your cat for at least 12-24 hours, including continuous monitoring of vital signs, heart rhythm, and overall clinical condition.
  • Although rare, they may consider additional treatments such as antidotes or specific medications to counteract the effects of cardiac glycosides.

Depending on the amount of foxglove plant consumed, it may take over 24 hours to recover.

Cat dizzy from foxglove poisoning
Despite early treatment, some cats may show weakness, dizziness, and less desire for food for a few days or a week.

However, provide aftercare and proceed with a regular, light diet and exercises as the veterinarian recommends.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating Foxglove?

Preventing your cat from eating foxglove plants is essential for their and the plant’s safety.

Here are proven tips to keep your cats away from foxgloves altogether.

  1. Secure Outdoor Areas: Create barriers or enclosures such as wooden gates, mesh, or netting to restrict your cat from walking into the garden.
  2. Remove Access to the Plant: If you have grown foxglove plants in a potter, consider hanging them by the ceiling or in a room with zero access to your cat. Cats are agile climbers, so consider the height.
  3. Use a Repellent Spray: If none of the measures work, consider spraying homemade repellants to ward off cats. Cats hate pungent smells; hence you use household items like garlic, cloves, citrus, or neem oil mixed with water to spray around the plant.
  4. Alternative Chewing Plants: Grow alternative chewing plants like catnip or cat grass to divert their attention. The edible grasses can quickly be grown in pots or containers and kept close to foxglove.
  5. Give Toys or Enough Playtime: Most cats get bored and explore nearby plants. You can limit their boredom by providing engaging toys, such as a feather toy, to keep them engaged.

Otherwise, spend time with your pet or take them to a day boarding.

From Editorial Team

It is best to identify the foxglove plant to keep your cat away from the potentially dangerous place.

Foxglove plants have showy characteristics, such as tall, erect stalks with large, bell-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple, or white.

The plant can get a few feet tall with elongated leaves with a fuzzy texture.