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Some common island plants are toxic to pets

Health & Wellness

May  2015
By TL Grace West

Dr. Mark Grossman of the Roanoke Island Animal Clinic in Manteo supplied the following information concerning some plants that are toxic to our pets and what you can do to help while on the way to the vet.

These plants contain toxins that affect the heart and can easily kill a pet or a human if enough is ingested.

Oleander: The main one on the Outer Banks is oleander. One oleander leaf can kill a dog or a human.

“I had a puppy consume a part of a plant in Avon, and the pup died before the owners could even get the poor pup to me,” Dr. Grossman noted.

Lily of the Valley and foxglove: Lilies are probably one of the most dangerous plants for cats, containing a chemical that is highly toxic to the kidneys.

The Easter lily is the most common, but day lily, Asian lily and star gazer also are toxic.   Even exposure to the pollen of an Easter lily plant can cause kidney failure.

Holly plant and berries: Both plant and berries are toxic. Symptoms can include severe gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression.

Mistletoe:  This plant causes acute gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. It can occur after a delay of several hours, and can cause delirium, ataxia (drunkenness), coma or hyperesthesia, seizures, extending of  the neck, and difficulty breathing. Death can occur 10 to 16 hours after ingestion.

Onion and garlic poisoning: The toxic aspects of these plants cause cells to rupture in both cats and dogs causing the pet to be very anemic.If enough is consumed—either in scrap food or outside plants–it can cause death from anemia in a few days. Discolored, dark urine may be seen. Weakness, rapid breathing, and a rapid heart rate may be noted. Some animals may be jaundiced, and/or have an onion odor to the breath. Cats are more sensitive than dogs. About 4 tsp per 10 pounds for a dog and almost half of that for a cat could cause toxicities.  It takes less of the concentrated powder.  Garlic does the same and is actually more toxic than onion because, gram per gram, it contains more of the toxin.

Calcium oxalate-containing plants: 

These plants contain small cells that when crushed shoot out thousands of spear-like structures that can cause intense irritation and inflammation of the mouth and G.I. tract.

While not a poison per se they can cause lots of damage when chewed by a pet.

Some of the more common oxalate-containing plants are:  Philodendron, Dumb Cane (dieffenbachia), Peace Lilies, Calla Lilly, Mother-in-Law plant, Elephant Ear and Pothos.
Sago Palm: This is becoming more and more of a problem as it becomes more popular in this area.

Even very young plants are toxic enough to cause death in animals. Dogs and cats are susceptible, as are horses, cows and people. The seeds are the most toxic component.

The toxin in this palm causes severe and often irreversible damage to the liver.  Clinical signs include vomiting, dark bloody stools, jaundice, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, liver damage, liver failure and death.  Without immediate and aggressive veterinary treatment, most of these pets will die within days.

Marijuana: “Yep. We need to mention this one,” said Grossman. “Due to its increasing popularity, we are seeing more pet poisonings in dogs and cats who obtain access to their owners’ stash.”

The toxins are various resins, mainly THC and related compounds. Clinical signs in our pets include ataxia, vomiting, dilated pupils, depression, hypothermia, tremors and salivation. Sometimes the pets become hyper-excitable.

Depression and lethargy can last up to 36 hours.
The remedy for poisoning from the above plants is to administer hydrogen peroxide (the kind used to clean cuts, which is 3 percent) to get the pet to vomit before or while on the way to the vet’s office.

The dose for dogs is about 5 to 15 ml per 10 pounds of body weight. That’s about one teaspoon to a tablespoon per 10 pounds of body weight. Even for the largest dog, never give more then 5 tablespoons, Grossman said.

Owners can also put a small pinch of salt in with it to help make the peroxide work better.  For cats, the recommended dose is one-half to one teaspoon.

So, enjoy your gardens while being careful with these plants with our beloved pets.

2.13 grace close up

Terrilynn Grace West lives, gardens and works on Oc­racoke providing warm water massage therapy.

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