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Are cats allergic to American Yew or is it toxic to them?

Illustration of an American Yew plant in Ukiyo-e style

The American Yew (Taxus canadensis), also known as Canada yewground hemlock, or American yew, is a highly toxic plant to cats. While not typically associated with allergies, all parts of this evergreen shrub, except the fleshy red aril surrounding the seed, contain poisonous taxine alkaloids that can be fatal to cats if ingested. American 

Yew is commonly found in the understory of forests, swampy woods, and along streams in central and eastern North America

Toxicity level

High

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Symptoms your cat may have

If a cat ingests any part of the American Yew plant, it may experience various symptoms due to the toxic taxine alkaloids present in the plant. The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount consumed, but common signs of American Yew poisoning in cats include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Collapse or coma
  • Sudden death

Potential diagnosis your Vet may give

If you suspect your cat has ingested American Yew, seek immediate veterinary care. Your veterinarian will likely perform the following steps to diagnose and treat your cat:

  1. Physical examination to assess overall health and check for signs of poisoning.
  2. Blood tests to evaluate organ function and detect any abnormalities.
  3. Urinalysis to assess kidney function and check for damage.
  4. Treatment may include inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, providing intravenous fluids, and offering supportive care.

For more information on treating yew poisoning in cats, visit Pet Poison Hotline

An illustrative banner depicting an anthropomorphic cat in a vet's office, alongside a call-to-action message that reads: 'If you suspect your pet may have ingested a potentially toxic substance,' accompanied by a prominent button stating 'Find A Vet Near Me!
An illustrative banner depicting an anthropomorphic cat in a vet's office, alongside a call-to-action message that reads: 'If you suspect your pet may have ingested a potentially toxic substance,' accompanied by a prominent button stating 'Find A Vet Near Me!

FAQ

Q: Are cats allergic to American Yew?

A: Cats are not allergic to American Yew, but the plant is highly toxic to them. It contains toxic compounds such as taxine A and B, which can cause severe poisoning and even death if ingested.

Q: What are the symptoms of American Yew poisoning in cats?

A: Symptoms of American Yew poisoning in cats include drooling, vomiting, weakness, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, seizures, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, dilated pupils, coma, and sudden death due to acute heart failure.

Q: Which parts of the American Yew plant are toxic to cats?

A: All parts of the American Yew plant are toxic to cats, including the leaves, seeds, and stems. The plant contains taxine alkaloids, which are highly poisonous.

Q: What should I do if my cat ingests American Yew?

A: If you suspect your cat has ingested any part of an American Yew plant, seek immediate veterinary care. The veterinarian may induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal, and provide supportive care such as IV fluids and medications to manage symptoms and stabilize heart function.

Q: Are there any safe alternatives to American Yew for cat owners?

A: Yes, there are many pet-safe plants that cat owners can keep instead of American Yew. Some options include spider plants, Boston ferns, and catnip. Always research a plant’s safety before bringing it into a home with cats.

Q: How can I prevent my cat from accessing toxic plants like American Yew?

A: To prevent your cat from accessing toxic plants, remove such plants from your home and garden entirely. If you must keep them, place them in areas that are completely inaccessible to your cat, such as in a closed room or high shelf. Consider using deterrent sprays or physical barriers to keep your cat away from these plants.

History of the American Yew

American Yew has a long history of use by Native American tribes for medicinal purposes, including as a treatment for rheumatism. The plant’s common name, ground hemlock, comes from its low-growing habit and its resemblance to the unrelated hemlock tree. American Yew is an important food source for wildlife, with its fleshy red arils being eaten by many bird species, which then disperse the toxic seeds.

In recent years, American Yew has been harvested as a source of taxanes, a class of chemicals used in the development of anti-cancer drugs like paclitaxel.

Further reading and sources

Please note: The information shared in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as veterinary medical advice.

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