Is Portulaca Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on September 21, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Is portulaca toxic to cats? 

Portulaca is toxic to cats. The toxic principle is soluble oxalic acid which is rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and binds to systemic calcium causing blood calcium levels to drop suddenly (acute hypocalcemia) as well as the formation of insoluble calcium oxalate (CaOx) which accumulate in the renal tubules, leading to acute kidney failure.

Most cases of insoluble calcium oxalate ingestion occur in livestock that has a greater propensity to ingest large amounts of plant matter.

What is portulaca?

  • Scientific name: Portulaca spp.
  • Family: Portulacaceae
  • Common name: Sun ruse, Ten o’clock, Vietnam rose, Rock rose,  Moss rose, Christmas roses, Purslane, Common purslane, Desert rose, Mexican rose, Kiss me quick, Wild portulaca, Pusley
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: All parts
  • Severity: Moderate to severe if large amounts are ingested (rare in cats)
  • Toxic properties: Soluble calcium oxalates

Portulaca is a drought-tolerant annual succulent native to South America. The rose-shaped flowers which grow in pink, orange, yellow, cream, white, red and multi-colour open during the day and close as the sun goes down.

Grow in full sun and well-drained soil. Portulaca is ideal as a ground cover in low borders, rockery pockets, edging and grown in containers. Plants are frost-tender, so plant after all risk of frosts has passed. The cylindrical foliage holds water well, which makes them an excellent plant for warm climates.

Some species of portulaca are grown as an edible plant, the leaves, stems, flower buds and seeds can be eaten raw or cooked. The small amount of portulaca ingested would not be an issue with regards to the toxic properties of portulaca.

On a personal note, I grow Portulaca Grandiflora in pots in summer and these easy to care for plants flower for months. The cats have shown no interest in chewing or eating them.

Clinical signs

There is no toxic dose, and symptoms will depend on the amount of oxalis ingested as well as the overall health of the cat. Cats who are dehydrated or have chronic kidney disease are at increased risk.

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Hypersalivation (drooling)
  • Gastrointestinal signs (loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Tremors secondary to hypocalcemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Kidney damage 24-36 hours after ingestion (altered urine output, blood in the urine, increased thirst)

What should you do if your cat has ingested portulaca

In most cases, cats will ingest an insignificant amount of portulaca to cause clinical signs. If a large amount has been ingested, seek immediate veterinary care.

As always, if you are unsure of the toxicity of a plant, contact your local veterinarian or animal poisons control for further advice.

Treatment

If ingestion was recent, the veterinarian can initiate gastric decontamination by inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to bind to any remaining plant matter in the gastrointestinal tract. Additional treatments will depend on the severity of clinical signs and may include:

  • Intravenous electrolyte solution to maintain kidney perfusion and treat hypocalcemia
  • Antiemetic therapy
  • Clinical monitoring

Prevention

The only way to prevent poisoning is to avoid growing poisonous plants in the house or garden. Some plants are more toxic than others, and we encourage all pet owners to research plants before bringing them home.

While portulaca is generally more of a problem for horses, sheep and cattle, some cats can be indiscriminate around plants. If you notice your cat chewing portulaca, it is recommended you remove the plant completely. There are plenty of cat-safe alternatives.

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