Lilies are beautiful flowers, commonly kept in houses and gardens for their large, bright blooms. As well as the pollen staining fabrics, what a lot of people do not realise is that lilies of the genera Lilium and Hermerocallis are actually toxic to certain household pets. Both cats and dogs are at risk from the extremely harmful flower, although the effects on dogs are a lot less severe.
It is thought that every part of the lily is toxic, from the flowers to the leaves, from the pollen to the stems and roots. It is not entirely clear what the actual toxin is, but even a tiny part of a lily, if consumed, can be fatal to cats. It is believed, however, that it is most likely that the pollen rubs off on the animal's fur as it passes, and is consequently ingested during grooming.
The main effect of a cat ingesting the lily is permanent kidney damage or complete renal failure. For dogs, the toxicity reveals itself through an upset stomach, and is not fatal. Long term, it is unlikely that a cat would completely recover from lily poisoning, but it is possible with a lot of care, and if treated quickly enough. Cats have been known to live for years after being poisoned by lilies, but this is rare. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
The effects of lily toxicity manifest themselves quickly, and it would seem that the toxins from the plant are absorbed into the bloodstream of the animal within two hours. One of the first symptoms is vomiting, and this is rapidly followed by the animal becoming subdued and having no appetite. Because these symptoms do not really stand out from other illnesses, it is important to have your pet checked out by a veterinarian if you suspect something is wrong with it.
The obvious way to prevent harm coming to pets due to lily poisoning would be to avoid having lilies in the house or garden. Dogs in particular will chew almost anything, and both cats and dogs groom themselves regularly. However if you do have lilies, be sure to pick up any fallen leaves or petals, and keep them well out of the reach of pets. Cats are playful animals, and may well be attracted to a flower arrangement in the house.