What is Brazilwood Poisoning?
It is these pods and the seeds within them that are toxic to cats when ingested. The seed pods may become accessible to a cat once they have fallen off of the shrub to the ground below. The brazilwood is native to the more southern parts of South America, but has spread north to parts of the western coast of the United States. It can only flourish in very dry regions that do not experience a true winter. Due to their beautiful flowers, many gardeners include these shrubs in their landscape designs.
Brazilwood is a name that is used for multiple trees and shrubs whose wood is bright red in color. The plant often goes by the names of “desert bird of paradise”, Caesalpinia gilliesii, or “poinciana”. All of these plants are a part of the Leguminosae family, not unlike peas or beans. The shrubs can grow quite large, reaching up to 12 feet in height and eight feet in diameter. Their rich colored wood makes them a favorite for uses in carpentry. The brazilwood is also known for its large and extravagant floral display which lasts throughout the summer. After the ornate flowers are done blooming, they turn into large, brown fruit pods filled with seeds.
Symptoms of Brazilwood Poisoning in Cats
If your cat has ingested the seeds or pods of a brazilwood, symptoms will begin to manifest immediately after consumption. It is best to call a poison control center or an animal hospital to get directions on the best care to provide to the cat while getting it to the nearest clinic or hospital. Signs to watch for include:
- Burning of the mouth, which will be seen as visible oral irritation
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty swallowing
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of coordination
Causes of Brazilwood Poisoning in Cats
If your cat is allowed to roam outdoors and you live in a climate where brazilwood can grow, exposure to toxic seed pods is possible. If you live in a neighborhood with many gardens, it is likely that some of your neighbors may grow this plant. The cat needs to consume the actual seeds or the pod to become poisoned. Bringing brazilwood clippings in the home for display should not pose a threat, as long as no seed pods exist on the branches.
Diagnosis of Brazilwood Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosing a specific plant that has poisoned a cat is extremely difficult unless the cat was witnessed eating it. If you did see your cat eating a plant, but are unsure of what it was, bring a sample with you for identification purposes. As soon as symptoms begin to develop, rush your cat to the nearest veterinary clinic or animal hospital so that it may be treated immediately.
The veterinarian will perform a physical examination of the cat to note all symptoms and look for any other potential causes of gastrointestinal distress. You may be asked about your cat's daily routine and about the areas that it is allowed to go in. It may be helpful to provide your cat's full medical history to help differentiate between a poisoning and other health problems. No specific poison identification test exists, however full blood work including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile will be completed to get a better picture of the cat's overall health. In some cases, samples of the cat's urine or feces may be collected for examination.
Treatment of Brazilwood Poisoning in Cats
Any poisoning of a cat is an emergency situation. If the cat has ingested a large amount of brazilwood seeds or pods, hospitalization may be required to stabilize its condition.
Remove Stomach Contents
The vet may remove the contents of the cat's stomach by inducing vomiting with a substance administered orally (only if the cat is conscious), or by performing a gastric lavage (stomach pump).
This may be given to the cat to help absorb and bind all toxins still existing within the gastrointestinal tract. The activated charcoal will help the toxins to pass through the intestines without being digested.
An IV may be given if the cat has become dehydrated due to excessive vomiting or diarrhea. The fluid administration can also help to quickly flush out the remainder of the toxins.
Recovery of Brazilwood Poisoning in Cats
Brazilwood poisoning is rarely fatal in cats. If proper treatment has been given, most cats will have an excellent prognosis with no further health issues after the initial sickness has passed. The best way to prevent your cat from eating brazilwood seeds and pods is to keep it indoors and out of other people's gardens. Ensure that no trimmings of the plant containing seed pods enter your home.
It is a good idea to keep a pet poison control or local animal hospital phone number somewhere visible, like on your fridge. It can also help to prepare for emergency situations by creating or purchasing a cat first aid kit, including a cat carrier, to help you transport your feline to an animal hospital as fast as possible in the case of an emergency.