Lily toxicity in cats: clarification

Recently a client threw me a question that had me stumped, and curious.  Are all members of the lily family toxic to cats? Online message boards had the answer in minutes.


If you’re a cat owner and love lilies, in vase or growing in the garden, you may be unwittingly risking your pet’s health. These plants are well known to case acute renal failure in cats. Mouthing flowers, stamens, and powdery yellow pollen are worst, but even foliage can put a cat in hospital with potential fatal, kidney shutdown.

Symptoms usually include lethargy; partial or complete loss of appetite; avid thirst, or more usually, no interest in drinking; abdominal pain; dehydration;  and vomiting. Diagnosis is blood tests; treatment is diruesis and electrolyte managment.

I’ve been aware this toxicity applies to the ornamental varieties (Asiatic, Day, Tiger, Calla, etc), but did it also apply to other members of the liliaceae family, the Dracaena (above) and Cordyline (below)?  These are ubiquitous, indoors and out, all over Australia.


The answer courtesy of the Veterinary Information Network. Thanks to Tina Wismer

Only the true lilies (Lilium or Hemerocallis) cause renal failure.

Cordyline can cause gastrointestinal issues, but not much else.

Dracaena is interesting in that it can cause GI issues (sometimes with blood) and has been known to cause dilated pupils in cats.

Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
An Allied Agency of the University of Illinois
Master Gardener

Another plant known to cause dilated pupils, in one or both eyes, is Deadly Nightshade. This common weed contains a natural atropine, which will result in benign and transient pupillary dilation if the plant is thwacked in the face or mouthed.  Treatment: gastrointestinal effects may require support; occular signs resolve without medication.

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