What is African Evergreen Poisoning?
Oxalate crystals are shaped like needles and are classified as being insoluble, meaning they do not dissolve in water. This characteristic is a factor in the intensity of the pain and effects that accompany exposure to the plant. If your pet becomes curious and decides to ingest a sample of the African evergreen, the sap of the plant contains the oxalate crystals and can cause fast acting symptoms including swelling of the tongue and drooling. Though our pets are very brave creatures and do not always exhibit the true intensity of their pain, studies show that ingesting this plant may result in severe symptoms. The stinging and burning which can result from even just a bite are often enough to stop a dog from ingesting a large amount of the plant. However, severe toxicity has been documented in pets who work past the pain as they continue to eat.
The African evergreen is a hardy, fast growing plant that is found in abundance in many southern states including Florida and Louisiana. This plant is of the Araceae family and when bitten into or ingested can cause irritation and pain to the tongue, mouth, and lips.
Symptoms of African Evergreen Poisoning in Dogs
The African evergreen produces symptoms that are fast acting. Though our dogs are often stoic when it comes to injuries, the intensity of the burning after biting or chewing on this plant may be seen very soon after the event.
- Excessive drooling
- Pawing at the mouth due to pain and numbness
- Intense burning of the tongue, lips, and inside the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Possible swelling of the tongue leading to breathing difficulties
- The gastrointestinal tract and stomach may be burning if pieces of the plant were swallowed
- Vocalization of pain
The African evergreen plant is of the Araceae family and is known scientifically as Syngonium podophyllum. Other common names for the plant are nephthytis, green gold naphthysis, trileaf wonder, goosefoot plant, goosefoot vine, arrow leaf, and arrowhead vine. This plant grows well both indoors and outside (in the right climate). It is a climbing plant when allowed, and has the ability to become invasive if left unattended.
Causes of African Evergreen Poisoning in Dogs
- The African evergreen can cause symptoms that are mild, moderate, and severe
- Calcium oxalates can be found in hundreds of plant species, rendering them poisonous
- The intense pain of ingestion can lead to great distress
- If the tongue swells, respiratory issues could result
Diagnosis of African Evergreen Poisoning in Dogs
If you are aware that your pet has been exposed to the African evergreen, you may choose to offer him water immediately to try and soothe the pain as you prepare to leave for the clinic. Bring a sample of the plant with you as an important part of the diagnostic process. If possible, take note of the time that your pet chewed upon or ingested the plant. If you can estimate the amount consumed this will be helpful information for the veterinarian to have.
Depending on the condition of your dog when he arrives at the clinic, a physical examination of the tongue, throat, lips and mouth will be done right away. The veterinarian will also want to listen to respiratory sounds and the heart rate of your pet as distress will most certainly be evident. Other tests that may be done in order to gain information about how much toxicity has occurred are urinalysis, blood tests (such as biochemistry). There is the possibility that your dog did not ingest any of the plant; therefore, the diagnosis of an irritated mouth and tongue is easier to reach.
Treatment of African Evergreen Poisoning in Dogs
The poisoning by African evergreen can range from moderate to severe and this will determine the treatment that your dog will receive. If he bit the plant and then was warned away by the sharp, needle-like sensation of the calcium oxalate crystals, the treatment will be a rinsing of the tissues and the mouth area in an attempt to soothe the membranes and reduce swelling. If your canine companion has much swelling of the tongue or throat, this signifies that he may have chewed on the plant enough that he will need monitoring in case breathing difficulties ensue. Documentation has shown that there have been incidences of intense swelling in pets who have been exposed to African evergreen, requiring oxygen until the swelling has subsided. Antihistamines and pain relief may be administered if needed as well.
If your pet is vomiting to the extent that intravenous fluids are required to prevent dehydration, medications, like gastroprotectants for the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, may be included. Your dog will remain under the care of the veterinary team until they feel that he is calm and feeling less pain.
Recovery of African Evergreen Poisoning in Dogs
The recovery of your pet should be relatively quick. Most canines do not ingest large amounts of the African evergreen due to the pain inflicted by the calcium oxalate compound. When you bring your pet home, provide him with a quiet place to rest with plenty of water available for him to drink. The veterinarian may recommend a soft bland diet for the first few days if there appears to be sensitivity remaining in the mouth. Contact the veterinarian if you have any concerns. It may be wise to remove the African evergreen from your home or put it in an area where your dog does not have access. Do not let your dog outside without close supervision if you have this plant in your yard or garden.