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Are cats allergic to Choke Cherry or is it toxic to them?

Byzantine art style illustration of a choke cherry plant.

The choke cherry (Prunus virginiana), also known as chokecherrywild cherry, or bitter-berry, is a deciduous shrub or small tree native to North America. While the ripe berries are edible, the rest of the plant, including the seeds, leaves, and bark, is toxic to cats.

Choke cherry trees are commonly found in the wild, along fencerows, and sometimes cultivated as ornamental plants. All parts of the choke cherry plant, except the ripe fruit pulp, contain cyanogenic glycosides. When ingested, these compounds release cyanide, which is poisonous to cats and other animals.

Toxicity level

Moderate

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Additional image of the plant

Symptoms your cat may have

If a cat eats any toxic part of a choke cherry tree, it may experience cherry poisoning symptoms. Signs of choke cherry poisoning in cats include:

  • Bright red mucous membranes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Inadequate oxygen levels
  • Shock
  • Collapse
  • Death

Potential diagnosis your Vet may give

If you suspect your cat has ingested any part of a choke cherry tree, seek immediate veterinary care. Your vet will likely perform the following to diagnose cherry poisoning:

  1. Take a thorough history of any plant ingestion and symptoms
  2. Perform a physical exam
  3. Check the cat’s blood oxygen levels
  4. Take a blood sample to look for a bright red color indicating cyanide toxicity
  5. Provide supportive care such as oxygen supplementation and fluid therapy
  6. Administer an antidote like sodium thiosulfate or methylene blue
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 Choke Cherry?

A: Yes, cats can be allergic to Choke Cherry. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include itching, sneezing, and skin irritation.

Q: Is Choke Cherry toxic to cats?

A: Yes, Choke Cherry is highly toxic to cats. The leaves, stems, and seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide when chewed and ingested, leading to severe symptoms.

Q: What are the symptoms of Choke Cherry poisoning in cats?

A: Symptoms of Choke Cherry poisoning in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, red gums, and dilated pupils. Immediate veterinary care is crucial if ingestion is suspected.

Q: How can I prevent my cat from coming into contact with Choke Cherry?

A: To prevent contact, ensure that Choke Cherry is not present in your home or garden. Keep your cat indoors or monitor outdoor activities closely to avoid exposure to Choke Cherry trees or fruits.

Q: What should I do if my cat ingests Choke Cherry?

A: If your cat ingests Choke Cherry, contact your veterinarian immediately. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed by a veterinary professional. Immediate medical attention is necessary.

Q: Is Choke Cherry commonly found in gardens?

A: Choke Cherry is more commonly found in wild areas rather than home gardens. However, if you do have this plant in your vicinity, it is important to ensure it is kept out of reach of cats to prevent accidental ingestion.

History of the Choke Cherry

Native Americans have used choke cherries as an important food and medicinal plant for centuries. The berries were collected, dried, and made into pemmican. Choke cherry bark was used to make a tea for treating colds and other ailments. Today, choke cherries are still used to make jams, jellies, syrups and wines.

The trees provide food and shelter for wildlife. However, the plant has become weedy and invasive in some areas.

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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