Christmas is coming! Just kidding. Although it does come around quite quickly, doesn’t it? It is possible that mistletoe will be around the home during that holiday season. So, the question is whether it is toxic to cats and dogs. The American Animal Hospital Association Encyclopaedia of Cat Health and Care is unequivocal about this as they state that mistletoe is a toxic houseplant to domestic cats and it can be fatal. Mistletoe is also toxic to dogs. American mistletoe is less toxic than the European varieties.
Sidebar: You may not know it but mistletoe is a parasitic plant. It is called an obligate hemiparasitic plant! Just for the record. They are attached to their host tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium. Birds eat the edible fruit. This passes in the usual way and is deposited onto tree branches. The seed releases a sticky substance which dries and creates a cement to ensure that the plant stays in place. Most seeds germinate in spring and the roots enter the host tree to steal water and nutrients.
In America, the NAPCC (the North American Plant Collections Consortium) states that the major toxic chemicals in mistletoe are lectins and phoratoxins. These chemicals can affect the animal’s cardiovascular system causing low blood pressure and a slowed heart rate.
It seems to me that mistletoe is less toxic to dogs than it is to cats. Severe mistletoe toxicity in dogs is uncommon and might happen if he eats a large amount.
The symptoms of mistletoe toxicity include gastrointestinal upset causing vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs and cats and colic in horses by the way. The animal may have difficulty in breathing and feel weak due to low blood pressure and a slowed heart rate. They might behave in a strange way.
Julia Wilson on Cat World tells us that the other toxic compounds within mistletoe are: gamma-aminobutyric acid, phenols, phenethylamines, phenylpropanoids, polysaccharides, and flavonoids.
Which part of mistletoe toxic? The answer is all parts of North American mistletoe are toxic and all parts of European Mistletoe are toxic apart from the berries.
Full symptoms of mistletoe poisoning in cats.
- Slow heart rate
- drop in blood pressure
- difficulty breathing
First aid will include inducing vomiting unless your cat is unconscious or having convulsions. Get immediate veterinary assistance.
Treatment includes a gastric decontamination which, in other words means the removal of the toxin from the gastrointestinal tract by inducing vomiting or pumping it out of the stomach. Further to that, care would include fluids to prevent dehydration and antinausea medication.
Some more stuff on poisonous plants:
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