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Are cats allergic to Cow Parsnip or is it toxic to them?

Byzantine-style illustration of a Cow Parsnip plant with tall green stalks, large leaves, and clusters of small white flowers.

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum), also known as cow parsley, is a tall flowering plant native to North America. This plant is toxic to cats and can cause serious health issues if ingested or if the sap comes into contact with a cat’s skin.

Cow Parsnip contains furanocoumarins like xanthotoxin, bergapten, and psoralen which are phototoxic compounds. The plant is commonly found in woodlands, grasslands, pastures, and along roadsides.

Toxicity level

SEVERE

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Additional image of the plant

Symptoms your cat may have

If a cat ingests or contacts Cow Parsnip, especially the seeds, and is then exposed to UV light, they may develop the following symptoms:

  • Skin sores and lesions (dermatitis) on areas with little fur, like the ears, nose and paws
  • Redness and swelling of the skin
  • Blisters that rupture leaving painful ulcers
  • Blindness and eye irritation including cloudy corneas and conjunctivitis
  • Vomitingdrooling, and diarrhea if large amounts are ingested
  • Tremors and seizures in severe cases

Potential diagnosis your Vet may give

If you suspect your cat has contacted or ingested Cow Parsnip, seek immediate veterinary care. Your vet will:

  1. Perform a physical exam to assess skin lesions and eye damage
  2. Take a history to determine likelihood of exposure to Cow Parsnip
  3. Run blood tests to check organ function
  4. Diagnose photosensitization and Cow Parsnip toxicity based on exam, history, and ruling out other causes
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 Cow Parsnip?

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

Q: Is Cow Parsnip toxic to cats?

A: Yes, Cow Parsnip is toxic to cats. Ingesting any part of this plant can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling.

Q: What are the symptoms of Cow Parsnip poisoning in cats?

A: Symptoms of Cow Parsnip poisoning in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain. Immediate veterinary care is recommended if ingestion is suspected.

Q: How can I prevent my cat from coming into contact with Cow Parsnip?

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

Q: What should I do if my cat ingests Cow Parsnip?

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

Q: Is Cow Parsnip commonly found in gardens?

A: Cow Parsnip is more commonly found in wild areas and along roadsides 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 Cow Parsnip

Cow Parsnip is native to North America and can grow up to 6 feet tall. It has been used medicinally by Native Americans for treating burns and sedating patients. However, the sap contains furanocoumarins which are phototoxic and can cause phytophotodermatitis, a severe skin reaction, in humans as well.

Care must be taken around this invasive weed, especially with cats.

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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