Is Coleus Toxic to Cats? (Symptoms & Treatments)

Yes, coleus can be toxic to cats. The coleus plant, also known as Solenostemon scutellarioides or Plectranthus scutellarioides, is a common houseplant that is toxic when ingested by cats.

This plant contains compounds such as camphor and thymol which are irritants to felines. Even with minimal contact, cats can experience oral irritation and drool. Ingestion can lead to more serious symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and an increased heart rate. If left untreated, it may even be fatal.

Here in this blog post, I’ll be discussing the toxicity of coleus to cats, symptoms of poisoning and what treatment options are available if your cat has ingested this plant.

I’ll also be exploring the safety precautions you should take to ensure your cat is not poisoned by this plant. So, read on to learn more about the dangers of coleus for cats.

Different Studies on Coleus Toxicity on Cats

Colorful coleus plant, with purple and green leaves -  close up

Cats are beloved members of many families, but when it comes to the safety of your furry friends, you should always be diligent. In recent studies, there has been evidence that suggests that cane coleus can be toxic for cats.

Coleus plants contain a toxic compound known as pulegone, which is poisonous to cats. Pulegone is a natural insecticide and can cause severe liver damage when ingested by cats.

The amount of pulegone found in any given coleus plant can vary greatly and largely depends on the species of the plant. Some types of coleus have much higher levels of pulegone than others, making those varieties more dangerous to cats and other animals.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 observed different levels of toxicity in cats when they were exposed to various species of coleus plants. They tested three different species: Coleus blumei, Coleus amboinicus and Coleus forskohlii.

The results showed that all three species contained moderate to high concentrations of pulegone, with C. forskohlii containing the highest levels out of all three species tested.

The researchers also found that ingesting even small amounts of pulegone could cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and lethargy in cats if not treated quickly enough. In more severe cases, ingestion can lead to liver failure and even death if left untreated for too long. 

It is important to note that while some types of coleus may be highly toxic to cats, not all varieties are hazardous and some may even be beneficial when ingested in small amounts by humans or pets as they contain various compounds with medicinal properties.

Which Part of Coleus is More Toxic for Cats?

The stems, leaves and flowers of the coleus plant are all toxic to cats. But the leaves generally contain the highest levels of pulegone, which is why they are the most dangerous part of the plant.

The stem and flowers also contain a smaller amount of pulegone, but they can still cause severe symptoms if ingested by cats.

Diagnosis of Coleus Poisoning in Cats

Coleus poisoning is diagnosed by your veterinarian through a physical examination and laboratory tests. If you notice any changes in behavior or appearance, tell your vet right away as these may be clues to Coleus Poisoning. Explain all symptoms in full detail, as this will help with an accurate diagnosis of the issue at hand.

1. Behavioral or Physical Diagnosis

If you’re unsure about how many coleuses your cat has eaten and what the consequences may be, observe their behavior or physical changes. Adverse reactions to the toxic element will take effect within 1-2 hours of ingestion.

Symptoms of Coleus Toxicity in Cats

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the symptoms of coleus toxicity in cats are:

SymptomsHow to Check?
VomitingIf you see your cat vomiting, take a sample of the vomit and bring it to your vet for testing.
DiarrheaCheck for any changes in the consistency or color of the stools.
LethargyNotice if there is a sudden decrease in energy level or activity.
Abdominal PainGently press on your cat’s abdomen to check for any tenderness or inflammation.
Liver FailureBlood tests will help determine the effects of coleus toxicity on the liver.

If you think that your cat may have ingested some parts of a coleus plant, please consult a veterinarian immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment of coleus poisoning can lead to a full recovery.

2. Medical Diagnosis

Once you take your cat to the vet for a physical examination, they may order laboratory tests or an ultrasound examination to confirm their diagnosis. These tests will help them determine the severity of the poisoning and whether any other complications have arisen due to pulegone consumption.

Your vet may also recommend an x-ray to help them assess the extent of the poisoning.

First Aid Process for Coleus Poisoning

From my experience, I know the most important step when dealing with coleus poisoning is to seek medical attention immediately. Do not delay as the effects of pulegone can be severe and even fatal if left untreated.

But as a courageous cat parent, you can help to reduce the symptoms of coleus poisoning by taking some first aid measures as soon as possible.

1. Induce Vomiting (Pro Tips!)

My vet always recommends that if you think your cat has ingested some parts of a coleus plant, you should try to induce vomiting. This can help expel the toxic substance from their body before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

You can do this by giving them hydrogen peroxide or salt water solution and ensuring they drink plenty of water afterward.

2. Administer Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal binds to the toxins in your cat’s body and helps them be expelled more quickly. You can administer it by mixing it with food or drink or even give it directly into their mouth with a syringe.

3. Provide Fluid Therapy

Dehydration is a major concern for cats with coleus poisoning. To counter this, give them plenty of fresh water or electrolyte solutions to rehydrate their body and help flush out the toxins.

4. Monitor Their Progress

Monitor your cat closely after you’ve done the first aid measures. Keep an eye out for any changes in behavior and bring them to the vet if you notice any concerning symptoms.

5. Follow Vet’s Recommendations

Finally, follow all the instructions your vet gives you. They may prescribe medication or recommend dietary changes, so make sure to adhere to these as they are essential for your cat’s recovery.

Treatment for Coleus Poisoning in cats

The treatment for coleus poisoning depends on how much and what kind of plant your cat has ingested. Here I’ll go for different stages of treatment:

a. Stage 1: Early Treatment (Life Saver!)

I know this is scary, but it’s important that you act quickly. If your cat has only just ingested the pulegone, it’s crucial to induce vomiting as soon as possible to prevent any further absorption of the toxin into their system.

Your vet will give your cat an injection that can induce vomiting, or they may administer intravenous fluids to help flush the toxins out of their system.

b. Stage 2: Intensive Care (Emergency Treatment)

If the poison has already entered your cat’s bloodstream, they will need intensive care treatment at the vet’s clinic. This may include treatments such as IV fluids to reduce dehydration and other symptoms caused by the poisoning, or medications designed to prevent further damage to the liver.

Your vet may also suggest dietary changes, such as a low-fat diet and vitamins, to support your cat’s recovery.

c. Stage 3: Monitor Progress (Recovery Time)

After your cat’s initial treatment, it’s important to keep an eye on their progress and consult with your vet regularly. This will allow them to monitor any changes in their health and adjust the treatments as necessary.

Recovery Stage for Coleus Poisoning

It’s important to keep in mind that the recovery time for coleus poisoning can vary depending on your cat’s health and how much of the plant they ingested. Here I will explain in detail the recovery stage:

a. Stage 1: Early Signs of Improvement (Encouraging!)

Within a few days of treatment, you may see some signs of improvement in your cat’s health. This could include them eating and drinking more, or showing more energy.

b. Stage 2: Mild Symptoms (Monitoring Time!)

At this stage, your cat may still be exhibiting mild symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea but the intensity should be much less than before. Monitor your cat closely for any signs of distress and contact your vet if you’re concerned about their health.

c. Stage 3: Fully Recovered (Complete Recovery!)

Once all the symptoms have gone away and your cat is back to their normal self, it’s safe to assume that they are completely recovered from the coleus poisoning.

It’s important to take all necessary precautions and treatments to ensure that your cat recovers from coleus poisoning quickly and safely. With proper care, you can help them make a full recovery in no time!

How to Prevent Coleus Poisoning in Cats?

Here I’ll explain the preventive measures to avoid Coleus poisoning in cats:

1. Avoid Access to Plants

The best way to prevent coleus poisoning in cats is to make sure that they don’t have access to plants. Keep them away from your cat and store them in a secure place.

Here are some of my tips:

  • Put screens on the windows and doors to prevent your cat from getting outside
  • Don’t bring potted plants into your house
  • Make sure all the plants in your garden are non-toxic to cats

2. Educate Yourself and Your Family

It’s important that you and your family members (especially young children) know what coleus plants look like, so they can be identified quickly if your cat gets into them. Here are some tips to help you educate yourself and your family:

  • Take the time to research different plants so you can identify them quickly
  • Ask your vet for advice on what to do if your cat ingests a toxic plant
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of poisonous plants and make sure they know not to touch them

3. Use a Repellent Spray (Optional)

If you’re really worried that your cat might get into the plants, consider using a repellent spray. This will help keep them away from the plants and prevent accidental ingestion. Just make sure to follow the instructions on the package carefully!

Besides, it’s incredibly easy to make your own repellent spray. All you need to do is mix water with essential oils like lemon or lavender, and spray it around your plants.

4. Clean Your Cat’s Litter

Are you wondering ‘how this can prevent coleus poisoning?’ Well, if your cat’s litter is dirty, they may explore mud, dirt, and other substances that could be contaminated with toxins.

And, when they clean themselves, they could inadvertently ingest the toxins. Therefore, cleaning your cat’s litter regularly is an important preventive measure.

5. Spray Away!

Finally, if you notice any signs of coleus poisoning in your cat, you can try spraying them with a mixture of water and vinegar. This will help get rid of the toxins and relieve some of the symptoms.

But remember this is not a permanent and reliable solution, and it’s always better to prevent the poisoning in the first place.

My Final Thoughts

Coleus poisoning can be very dangerous for cats. It is important to take the necessary measures to ensure that your cat is safe and healthy. If you suspect coleus poisoning, seek medical attention immediately and follow all the vet’s recommendations to ensure a speedy recovery.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure! So, familiarize yourself with the different plants that are toxic to cats and keep them away from your pet at all times.

I hope this article has helped shed some light on coleus poisoning in cats and I wish you and your furry friend a speedy recovery!

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