What is Aloe Vera Poisoning?
The main active ingredient in aloe vera, saponin, is a group of molecules that bond to sugar and can cause serious problems in your dog’s system in various ways. The latex part of the aloe vera plant causes cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and dehydration. The ability to lower the blood sugar in dogs is especially dangerous, causing coma and death in some cases. When your dog eats part of an aloe vera plant, his body metabolizes the glycosides with bacteria found in the intestinal tract. This produces a compound that increases mucus and water in the colon, causing nausea and vomiting. If this continues, dangerous dehydration may follow, and can be fatal if not treated right away. It is best to take your dog to the veterinarian right away if you see or suspect that he has eaten any parts of an aloe vera plant.
Aloe vera is a fleshy plant with tall and serrated leaves, clusters of yellow flowers, and a gel inside that people use for burns and other medical properties. While the gel may be good for humans to use, it is definitely not for consumption by dogs. The plant contains a chemical called saponin, which is toxic to animals and children. Ingestion of aloe vera can cause excessive vomiting, severe diarrhea, and low blood sugar. In fact, the toxicity can be so extreme as to cause the breakdown of red blood cells, which can be fatal if not treated immediately. The latex, which is the inner skin of the aloe vera leaves, contains a powerful laxative that can cause dehydration from diarrhea.
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Symptoms of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Abnormal heart rate
- Breathing difficulty
- Dark urine
- Dilated pupils
- High body temperature (hyperthermia)
- Muscle twitches, spasms, or weakness
- Skin irritation (bumps, flaky skin, and hair loss)
- Weight loss
- Acute aloe vera poisoning occurs when your dog consumes a large amount of aloe vera or a product containing aloe vera or latex
- Chronic aloe vera poisoning occurs when your dog is exposed to aloe vera plants or products from the plant
Causes of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of aloe vera poisoning can be from one large dose (ingestion) or from repeated topical and/or oral exposure. This can occur from many situations, such as:
- Eating aloe vera plants
- Eating or being fed products with aloe vera gel, supplements or latex
- Constant exposure to aloe vera products
Diagnosis of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
Be sure to let your veterinarian know if your dog has gotten into aloe vera plants, aloe products, or if you have been giving your dog aloe vera supplements. Bring the information with you to the veterinarian’s office in addition to your dog’s medical history, such as shot records, recent illnesses, injuries, and abnormal behavior. The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination, which includes vision and hearing check, reflexes, body temperature, blood pressure, height, weight, heart rate, oxygen level, and respiration rate.
Some laboratory tests that your veterinarian will do are a complete blood count (CBC), blood gases, biochemistry profile, electrolytes, glucose test, urinalysis, and fecal examination. They will be looking for lower than normal red blood cell count, low glucose level, and decreased electrolyte levels.
The veterinarian will also get some radiographs (x-rays) of your dog’s abdomen and chest to look for damage or any indication of ingested plant material. If necessary, the veterinary team may need to perform an ultrasound and CT scan for a more detailed look at your dog’s abdomen. An endoscopy may also be done to look for any remaining aloe vera parts or products and to verify that your dog does not have an obstruction from eating the plant. In addition, your veterinarian may do an echocardiogram (ECG) to check your dog’s heart muscular and electrical activity.
Treatment of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment includes decontamination by inducing vomiting and performing a gastric lavage to clean any remaining aloe vera from your dog’s stomach. Activated charcoal will also be given to bind to the aloe vera so it can be evacuated through your dog’s bowels without any further contamination. IV fluids and oxygen therapy will be administered to keep your dog hydrated and stable.
Recovery of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
How well your dog does depends on how much aloe they swallowed and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery. Monitor your pet once home, and be certain to attend all follow-up appointments as scheduled by the veterinarian.
Aloe Vera Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My seven months old labrador, besides losing its appetite, defecates and vomits frequently after ingesting an amount of aloe vera. What possible actions should we do? Thank you!
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Hi my dog has diarrhea he chewed a piece of aloe Vera yesterday at around 12:00pm he did not eat it he chewed the piece and spit it out wondering if that has anything to do with the diarrhea the diarrhea did not begin until today at around 5:00am
It is possible that the aloe vera is causing some irritation to his gastrointestinal tract, the diarrhoea should clear up soon if it is connected to the aloe vera; other causes may be due to diet, infections, poisons or foreign objects. If he still has diarrhoea tomorrow visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I was told that the aloe vera gel was good for cats, is it safe?
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