Short Takes: 04/03

Beautiful but deadly: flowers and bulbs to beware; vaccination update

Spring Bulbs Are Toxic Year­Round
An always welcome sign of spring are the flowering bulbs that punch through gray landscapes – and even through snow – to show their colors. But most flowering bulbs pack a toxic punch that can poison pets, and the ill effects arent limited to springtime, according to an article in the journal, Veterinary Medicine (Vol. 97, No. 8).


Besides being choking hazards, if bulbs or bulb fragments are swallowed whole, the article warns, the plants leaves, flowers, stems, and the bulbs themselves have a variety of toxic effects. Among the bulbous flowering plants cited by the veterinary journal are jack-in-the-pulpit, crocus (both the spring- and autumn-blooming types), lily of the valley, cyclamen, snowdrop, gladiola, glory lily, hyacinth and grape hyacinth, iris, daffodil, jonquil, narcissus, and tulip.

Depending on the type and part of the plant contacted, effects can range from irritation of the skin, mouth, or gastrointestinal tract and vomiting or diarrhea, to seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, liver and kidney failure, or death. Showing a photograph of a curious feline, the journal notes: This cat is close to two toxic plants. The daffodils on the right can cause contact dermatitis and moderate or severe GI signs. The lilies of the valley on the left can be cardiotoxic. And for cats that dont tiptoe through the tulips outdoors, the journal points out that bulbs forced to bloom indoors have the same toxic effects.

Deciding When to Vaccinate
If cats had their way, theyd probably forgo vaccinations altogether. But how do veterinarians decide which shots are essential and which are optional or inadvisable? Some professional guidance comes in a new report by the Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents (COBTA) of the American Veterinary Medical Association, as published in the associations journal (JAVMA, Vol. 221, No. 10).

COBTA listed core vaccines every cat should have, noncore vaccines that are optional, and then commented on the reasoning behind the recommendations. Core vaccines for cats include feline panleukopenia, viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and rabies. Noncore vaccines are for chlamydiosis, feline infectious peritonitis, dermatophytosis, bordetellosis, giardiasis, and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Some of the vaccination decisions come with the territory, depending on where the cats live and what theyre exposed to. But other vaccines, COBTA noted, simply dont work well or might not be worth the risk of complications. Chlamydiosis vaccines, for example, have poor efficacy in preventing disease and yet appear more likely to cause problems – such as transient fever and lethargy – than other feline vaccines.

But rabies shots pose another kind of problem, the experts noted. Although rabies vaccine is essential, effective, and legally required in some areas, local lawmakers and regulators dont always consider the fact that modern rabies vaccines last longer than they used to. Until laws catch up with modern medicine, cats may have to get their rabies shots more frequently than necessary.