What is American Mandrake Poisoning?
Atropine interferes with the parasympathetic division of the central nervous system, which is responsible for stimulating digestion, pupil contractions, controlling cardiac and respiratory rates, as well as relaxing the body of the feline. When atropine enters the body, the nerve receptors cannot release their stimulating agent known as acetylcholine and the nerve pulse cannot be carried onto the adjacent nerve. In other words, atropine prevents nerve messages to be carried on from one to the next. Due to its nerve blocking effects, atropine is actually used in the world of veterinary medicine to manage patients will nerve abnormalities and to decrease the production of saliva during surgery. However, in large amounts and used in overall healthy patients, atropine can cause fatal effects on a feline.
The American mandrake is known around the world by its scientific name, Mandragora sp. and is a member of the Solanaceae family of plants. All portions of the American mandrake are considered toxic including the petals, leaves, stem and pollen. In the Eastern Hemisphere, the American mandrake is considered to be one of the top poisonous plants containing deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids including hyoscyamine, apoatropine, scopolamine, and atropine. The toxic element in the American mandrake that poses the greatest health risk to felines is the alkaloid, atropine.
Symptoms of American Mandrake Poisoning in Cats
After a feline ingests the American mandrake plant, he or she will begin displaying clinical signs of toxicity in approximately 30 to 60 minutes. These clinical signs can last from 24 for 48 hours, as the toxins make their way down to the elimination tracts of the urinary and digestive systems. The toxins within the American Mandrake plant effect the feline’s organs in different ways. A list of each organ affected and the way the organ is affected by American Mandrake positioning are summarized below:
Atropine blocks the vagus nerve, which is responsible for regulating the heart’s contractions. With the vagus nerve blocked off from the rest of the nervous system, the heart cannot slow down and causes an elevated heart rate.
Atropine blocks the contraction of the eye’s pupillary sphincter muscle, which causes the pupil to remain dilated. The mandrake chemicals will also temporarily paralyze the eye’s striated smooth muscle, causing the cat’s ability to focus and see an object clearly to be compromised.
Atropine disrupts the pathways from the brain to the rest of the body, resulting in total disconnection between the cat’s brain and body. Once the brain is affected, the feline will exhibit the following symptoms:
- Central nervous system depressant
- Impaired muscle control
- Lost control of eye movements
- Decreased ability to swallow
- Loss of all physical, voluntary movements (walking, standing, etc.)
Once the American mandrake toxins have made their way to the brain, the feline will begin to display the following clinical symptoms:
- Mental confusion
- Over excitement
- Paralysis of all involuntary muscles (heart, lungs, etc.)
Causes of American Mandrake Poisoning in Cats
American mandrake poisoning in cats is caused by an ingestion of any portion of the plant including the petals, leaves, stem, and pollen. The toxic components of the American Mandrake are deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids including hyoscyamine, apoatropine, scopolamine, and atropine.
Diagnosis of American Mandrake Poisoning in Cats
The only true way to diagnose an American Mandrake poisoning in cats is to see the cat consume the plant, however, this is usually not a possibility. Therefore, your veterinarian will perform a differential diagnosis to rule out other possibilities for why the feline is exhibiting the associated symptoms. The diagnostic process will begin with a physical examination, review of the feline’s medical history and a consultation with the pet owner. Following routine diagnostic procedures, the veterinarian will want to conduct a series of diagnostic tests that may include:
- CBC (complete blood cell count)
- Biochemical profile (blood work)
- Blood smear test
- Urinalysis (examination of urine)
- Fecal floatation test
- Fecal examination
- Abdominal ultrasound and/or x-ray
Treatment of American Mandrake Poisoning in Cats
The goal in treating a feline American mandrake poisoning is to eliminate the substance from the feline’s body before it causes complete shutdown of involuntary muscles. If the feline is still conscious, the veterinarian will administer medication to induce vomiting, but if the toxins have caused the feline to fall unconscious, a gastric lavage may be used to pump out the stomach. Additional treatment methods may include:
- Activated charcoal
- Fluid therapy
Recovery of American Mandrake Poisoning in Cats
Death from ingesting American mandrake in cats is rare and if the poisoning is caught early, can be effectively treated by a licensed veterinarian. In most cases, a feline will begin to recover within 24 to 36 hours with appropriate treatment.