Most switched-on small animal clinicians know that lilies can cause life-threatening renal injury to cats. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) in the UK have identified lily intoxication amongst the top five serious intoxications of cats, and indeed it currently generates the greatest number of feline toxicological enquiries.(1) There have been several case reports and small case series published which have captured the clinical features of lily intoxication, while some progress has been made towards to defining the pathomechanisms underlying this unusual species specific problem. A recent review in JFMS has condensed most of the available information.(1)
Previously, ISFM and the Centre for Veterinary Education (CVE) have worked with industry colleagues like Dr Ken Mason from Dermcare to come up with visual art that is an aide memoire for practicing veterinarians. Displaying this type of laminated poster in veterinary clinics is a useful strategy for educating cat owners (and new graduates!) of this potential injury. A small number of outlets have adopted the use of text-based warning stickers on the wrapping of lilies sold in bunches.
Despite these efforts, cats are still falling victim to this preventable condition. Further measures are needed. Veterinarians should lobby for the widespread adoption of warning labels and posters at all locations where lilies are sold, either by themselves, or as part of a larger floral decoration. To this end, ISFM and the CVE have collaborated to produce artwork in a variety of formats which can be displayed at the point of sale – in supermarkets, florists and other outlets. Some of the art is most suitable to be used as a laminated or framed poster (eg, posters top and middle), while other labels are better suited to being attached to arrangements using a string (see bottom). These may be more eye-catching, and thus more effective, than a simple text-based label.
While the concept of providing warnings at point of sale is a logical step in preventing lily intoxication, we need support for this initiative. This is an excellent opportunity for a pro-feline drug company or pet food manufacturer to support a warning system which will ultimately educate owners and save the lives of many cats and kittens. Such support may involve paying for production of warning labels, and/or influencing supermarket and florist chains to adopt this proactive measure.
As JFMS readers are all too aware, the prognosis for cats and kittens with lily toxicity is reasonable if the affected cat is presented immediately following ingestion. But owners unaware of the toxic potential of lilies may present their cat only after renal failure has developed. Despite aggressive treatment, it is often too late.
In the interests of feline welfare we are appealing in particular to JFMS readers, ISFM members and sponsors and advertisers to progress this initiative.
Stephen W Page
1. Grave T, Boag A. Feline toxicological emergencies. When to expect and what to do. JFMS 2010; 12: 849–60.