Is chrysanthemum toxic to cats?
Chrysanthemum is toxic to cats, the toxic principles are sesquiterpene and pyrethrins that cause gastrointestinal disturbances and alantolactone which can cause contact dermatitis.
What is chrysanthemum?
- Family: Asteraceae
- Botanical name: Chrysanthemum spp.
- Common names: Chrysanthemum, Mum, Common chrysanthemum
- Toxicity: Toxic to cats
- Toxic parts: All parts
- Severity: Mild
- Toxic principle: Sesquiterpene, pyrethrins and alantolactone
Native to East Asia, Chrysanthemum is a bushy perennial made up of 40 wild species and thousands of cultivars. Their showy flowers grow in an abundance of colours, which makes them popular with gardeners and florists.
Chrysanthemums are used as a herbal remedy in Chinese medicine to treat respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and hyperthyroidism. Pyrethrin has a potent insecticidal activity and is commonly used in household and commercial insect sprays as well as dog flea and tick treatment.
Signs of chrysanthemum poisoning in cats
Gastrointestinal disturbances are the most common symptom of chrysanthemum toxicity, which may include loss of appetite, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Contact with the skin can also cause contact dermatitis, with redness and skin irritation.
While ingestion or contact with chrysanthemum is generally mild, exposure to products which contain pyrethrin or its synthetic form pyrethroid, can be fatal due to their altered liver glururonidation metabolism.
Pyrethrin and pyrethroid targets the central nervous system, with common symptoms gastrointestinal signs (hypersalivation, vomiting) neurological signs (disorientation, agitation, weakness, tremors, seizures) and respiratory signs (rapid, shallow breathing). The most common exposure is accidental or deliberate application of a dog flea treatment, or secondary exposure when a cat grooms a dog who has recently been treated.
There is no antidote for chrysanthemum ingestion, and the goal of treatment is to prevent further absorption and provide supportive care. If ingestion was recent, the veterinarian can decontaminate the GI tract by inducing vomiting, followed by administration of activated charcoal to prevent further absorption. Fluid therapy can prevent or treat dehydration and anti-nausea medication can control vomiting. Recovery is usually straightforward and most cats are back to normal within 24 hours.
Our article on pyrethrin and pyrethroid exposure covers treatment in more detail.
Feature image: _Alicja_, Pixabay