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Aloe vera is a medicinal herb that needs no introduction. Extracts from the plant have been used from time immemorial to treat numerous common ailments, including pain, nausea, and bowel incontinence.
But is this therapeutic herb safe for cats too? Can cats have aloe vera extracts?
Read on to find out.
Is Aloe Vera Toxic To Cats?
Aloe vera may provide numerous therapeutic benefits to humans. But the herb has been shown to cause toxicity to cats.
Below are some of the symptoms of aloe vera poisoning in cats;
• Diarrhea, which may often become bloody
• Dehydration symptoms, such as dry eyes and thick saliva
• Coughing due to irritation of the mucous membrane in the mouth and throat
• Signs of abdominal cramping
• Changes in urine color, such as the urine becoming red
• Irritability, usually evidenced by pacing or compulsive behaviors like excessive scratching
What Causes Aloe Toxicity in Cats?
Aloe vera produces several therapeutically useful chemicals. But it’s these very compounds that can become poisonous to cats. Common toxins in aloe include the saponins anthracene, anthraquinones, and glycosides.
Cats shouldn’t consume saponins. Exposure to these compounds may trigger a range of gastrointestinal and hypersensitive reactions.
Studies have shown that saponins may also increase the volume of water and mucus in a cat’s colon when ingested. This can lead to severe abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea.
It’s important to point out that the most toxic part of the aloe vera plant is the white latex and not the gelatin found within the leaves.
In What Ways Can A Cat Become Exposed To The Toxins In Aloe Vera?
Exposure to the poisonous compounds in aloe vera is usually via ingestion. Your cat will need to eat the saponins in aloe to exhibit the above-listed symptoms.
Exposure to aloe’s toxic chemicals may also result from sniffing the plant’s white latex secretions. And in rare cases, some cats might develop contact dermatitis to aloe vera.
Contact dermatitis refers to hypersensitive reactions resulting from physical contact with an allergen. This form of allergy mostly produces skin irritation and inflammation as its primary symptoms.
Note that contact dermatitis will typically occur when aloe vera’s white latex secretions penetrate a cat’s skin through open wounds. That shouldn’t be a problem if your cat has no skin lesions. However, remember that aloe leaves are also edged with thorny spikes. These thorns can easily break your cat’s skin when the animal strolls through aloe thickets, creating a passageway for the toxic latex to penetrate his bloodstream.
Why Are Cats Drawn To Aloe Vera?
Cats are curious animals who’re always happy to investigate anything new in their surroundings. And one way cats explore their environment is by nibbling on stuff. The mere sight of aloe vera sprouting in your backyard or wellness garden might be all that it takes to pique your cat’s interest. Besides, aloe plants usually look spectacular when in bloom, especially when planted en masse. And it’s worse if growing them indoors as that only increases your cat’s access to them.
Secondly, your cat may chew on aloe leaves due to a nutritional deficiency or as a way of easing indigestion. Cats are known to eat grass and other plant leaves. It mostly helps relieve an upset stomach. But pet experts now believe that nibbling on plants might further suggest a nutritional deficiency in cats.
Stress, anxiety, and boredom are other reasons that could drive your cat to nibble on aloe leaves. That’s especially true for cats with full-blown anxiety disorders, such as separation anxiety.
Can Aloe Vera Kill Cats?
Fatalities resulting from exposure to aloe vera’s toxins are generally unheard of. But that doesn’t mean they’re completely inexistent.
Without urgent medical interventions, the symptoms of aloe poisoning might eventually kill your kitto. That’s especially if cases of severe exposure.
What to Do If Your Cat Has Eaten Aloe Vera
The first thing to do if you discover that your cat has consumed aloe vera is to determine the quantity ingested. This might clue you in on the severity of side effects to expect.
Secondly, establish the parts of the plant consumed. As already mentioned, the biggest problem with aloe for cats is the latex secretion that oozes from the plant when cut, not the gel that fills out the leaves.
Next, take your cat to the vet immediately he begins to display any symptoms of aloe poisoning. The vet will conduct several diagnostic procedures, which usually include analyzing urine samples and blood work. An X-ray may also be necessary to establish whether your cat is suffering from organ damage or an underlying disease that’s aggravating the symptoms of aloe poisoning.
After a complete diagnosis, your veterinarian officer will recommend the right treatment option. These typically include administering activated charcoal to induce vomiting or intravenous fluids to treat dehydration.
How to Prevent Your Cat From Ingesting Aloe
When it comes to aloe vera toxicity in cats, prevention is better than cure.
You can reduce your cat’s exposure to aloe vera by fencing off outdoor aloe plants and investing in a hanging planter for indoor aloes.
Providing your cat with plenty of quality food and fresh water may also prevent nibbling on plants often caused by nutritional deficiency or upset stomach.
Last but not least, the combination of regular exercise and interactive pet toys can also reduce plant interactions induced by stress, anxiety, and boredom.
Is It All Doom And Gloom When It Comes To Aloe Vera For Cats?
Aloe vera may be poisonous to cats if ingested or sniffed. However, the plant can provide numerous benefits if topically applied.
Like in humans, aloe vera can speed up the wound healing process if administered externally. The plant might also protect wounds from infections. That’s due to its antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, and antipruritic properties.
Aloe vera is potentially toxic to cats if ingested. Therefore, it’s imperative to take proactive measures to reduce your kitto’s exposure to this plant.
And although aloe can provide certain benefits if topically applied, it’s best to consult your vet before using extracts from this herb for treating any skin conditions in your cat.