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What is Straight Margined Dracaena Poisoning?

Straight margined dracaena is thought to possess toxic properties, although this is sometimes argued as no specific toxin has been identified as of yet. All parts of the plant may contain steroidal saponins or various alkaloids that can cause a negative reaction if eaten by a cat. There is also the chance that the plant material is simply not digestible to a cat and is expelled by the body either as vomit or in its whole form from the bowels. Genetics may also lead to some cats being more sensitive to whatever chemicals exist in straight margined dracaena. While the plant poses a minimal risk, it is still wise to exercise caution if your cat has potential access to a straight margined dracaena. 

Straight margined dracaena is a specific subspecies of the common dracaena plant. It is often called the Madagascar dragon tree or red edge dracaena and is classified as a Dracaena marginata of the Asparagaceae plant family. Native to Eastern Africa, straight margined dracaena can be grown in a tree or shrub form and can reach heights of 15 feet when planted in the ground. It can be used in gardens in most of the southern United States. More often, it is found in its smaller form as an indoor plant. Many people enjoy straight margined dracaena due to its tropical look and ease of care. The plant grows from a wooded stem and shoots long, slender leaves that look somewhat like palm fronds. The leaves of the straight margined dracaena have a reddish purple edge and become yellow prior to falling off from old age as new foliage emerges. 

Symptoms of Straight Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Cats

If a cat consumes straight margined dracaena, mild symptoms may follow with the potential of moderate illness, although many cases may resolve without any negative impact. Signs to watch for include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Staggering
  • Rapid heartbeat

Causes of Straight Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Cats

Due to how often straight margined dracaena is kept in people's homes, it is likely that indoor cats will come into contact with the plant at some point in their lives. Cats may be prone to nibbling on the plant as it is very similar to grass. The reactions in the cat after ingestion are also similar to those caused by grass. Cats allowed outdoors in warmer climates may also contact the plant in gardens.

Diagnosis of Straight Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Cats

If your cat begins to exhibit symptoms of illness, take it to be professionally assessed by a veterinarian. If you witnessed your cat eating a plant but are unsure of what is was, bring a small cutting with you for the vet to identify, as this can help in determining proper treatment. You may be asked what type of plants you keep in and around your home, and if you allow your cat to to outdoors. Providing your cat's full medical history to the veterinarian can further assist in both the diagnostic and treatment process.

The vet will then perform a complete physical examination of the cat, noting any abnormalities. All of the cat's vital functions will be measured, including its temperature and blood pressure. A sample of your cat's blood will be collected so that routine tests may be run to get an idea of the cat's overall health condition. A complete blood count and a biochemical profile may reveal a depletion in electrolytes, suggesting that the cat is becoming dehydrated from prolonged symptoms. Urinalysis may also be needed to assess how the internal organs are functioning.

Treatment of Straight Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Cats

If treatment is needed, it will likely be symptomatic in nature. The cat is likely to expel the plant material on its own, but should be monitored until the illness has passed.

Emesis 

If the cat is struggling to eliminate straight margined dracaena leaves from its body, the veterinarian may choose to induce vomiting by administering hydrogen peroxide until all stomach contents are removed. 

Fluid Therapy 

After a lengthened period of vomiting, the cat may become dehydrated. If the situation has become severe enough, intravenous fluids and electrolytes will need to be supplemented. The cat will need to be hospitalized throughout this process.

Recovery of Straight Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Cats

A cat who has ingested straight margined dracaena is likely to make a fast recovery within 24 hours of eating the plant. As soon as all plant material has exited the cat, symptoms should cease and no lasting damage should remain. There are no reported animal deaths from straight margined dracaena consumption. It is still debatable whether the plant is poisonous or simply indigestible.

To prevent your cat from becoming ill from eating straight margined dracaena, keep all houseplants out of the cat's reach and clean all fallen leaves regularly. Some may choose to remove plants that pose a potential threat to cats from their home. If you live in a warmer area, keeping your cat indoors will also prevent it from contacting this or other toxic plants growing in neighborhood gardens.