What is Amaryllis Poisoning?
The ingestion of the amaryllis bulb by a curious pet can occur when your dog finds a bag of bulbs ready for planting, chews on the plant within the home, or explores the garden area and eats a quantity of bulbs or sections of the plant. The true amaryllis plant is the Amaryllis belladonna, which has a thicker stalk than other plants that commonly fall under the amaryllis name; in the belladonna, funnel-shaped flowers emerge from a solid stem.
The scientific name for this plant is Amaryllidaceae and it contains the substance lycorine which has been documented to cause illness in pets and humans who consume it. Gastrointestinal distress, lethargy, and tremors are commonly seen in dogs who have been exposed to large amounts of this plant; the bulbs in particular are most dangerous. In the fall, when gardeners are busy preparing the soil, redistributing bulbs, and planting for the spring, the danger to pets increase as they will often dig the bulbs up and ingest them if the opportunity arises. Some cases of amaryllis poisoning can be moderate but due to the possibility of serious illness, a visit to the veterinarian is warranted if you suspect your pet has eaten any part of this plant.
The amaryllis bulb contains the compound lycorine, which when ingested, can cause toxicity. Canines who have an interest in digging in the garden may consume this bulb or other parts of the plant, leading to illness varying from moderate to severe.
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Symptoms of Amaryllis Poisoning in Dogs
Fortunately, most canines will need to ingest a fair amount of amaryllis bulbs before severe toxicity occurs. This will depend on the size of your dog and his present state of health as well. Any pet who has underlying diseases or illnesses will suffer more with a toxicity than the average healthy dog. Ingestion of parts of the plant such as leaves or stems can cause gastrointestinal distress. The chance of a foreign body obstruction is a possibility if your pet chokes on the bulb. If your pet eats several amaryllis bulbs, the symptoms can be more pronounced.
- Abdominal discomfort
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory distress
The true amaryllis (of the genus Amaryllis) is known as the A. belladonna or the naked lady. Other plants commonly called amaryllis, from the genus Hippeastrum, are known as giant amaryllis, Dutch amaryllis, and St. Joseph’s lily.
Causes of Amaryllis Poisoning in Dogs
Ingestion of the amaryllis can cause gastrointestinal effects and other symptoms which indicate a systemic disruption. The alkaloids that cause the toxicity are (in small amounts) galanthamine and pancratistatin, with the main alkaloid being lycorine (determined to be the ingredient that causes nausea and vomiting after amaryllis consumption).
Diagnosis of Amaryllis Poisoning in Dogs
Bringing your pet to the veterinary clinic is necessary if you have discovered your pet digging in your garden and then becoming ill, or if he has ingested an amaryllis plant in a pot within the home. If you are aware of what your dog has eaten bring a sample of it along to the veterinarian’s office as this will aid in the diagnosis, as well as indicate to the veterinary team the level of toxicity that needs to be addressed.
Depending on the condition of your dog when he arrives at the clinic, the veterinarian may begin with a physical examination that includes weight verification, blood pressure, heart rate and pulse. Helpful information that you can provide at this time would be recent illnesses your pet may have had, medications he may be on presently or of late, how much of the plant or bulb you believe was ingested, the timing of the event, and when the symptoms started.
If your pet has been vomiting and is showing signs of distress, the veterinarian may order blood tests to check the electrolyte levels which could be affected by dehydration. Often, the veterinary team will want to be sure that your pet does not have any underlying health concerns that could be further exacerbated by the amaryllis poisoning. In addition, if your pet is older, there is the possibility that organs (particularly the liver) could be affected, so a baseline verification of blood markers can be a good idea.
Treatment of Amaryllis Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is not already vomiting, the veterinarian may choose to induce emesis and then use active charcoal to bind the remainder of toxins that may be in the stomach, particularly if a large quantity of bulbs were ingested. If your canine companion has been vomiting for some time and is showing signs of dehydration, tremors, nausea, or abdominal pain intravenous may be necessary. The benefit of this extra fluid will bring your pet’s enzymes and electrolytes back to normal. Additionally, if pain medication or gastroprotectants are needed, they can be administered at the same time.
Recovery of Amaryllis Poisoning in Dogs
The prognosis for recovery from amaryllis poisoning is good; most often the ingestion of the plant or bulb is minimal because the amaryllis is not particularly palatable to animals. Your pet may require a bland diet for several days until his stomach has a chance to settle down. Monitor his condition over the next week as he returns to normal, and be certain to call the clinic if you have any concerns. Gardening experts may recommend that you plant amaryllis bulbs in cages that prevent animals from digging them up; another suggestion is to limit your pet’s access to the garden altogether or plant the amaryllis bulbs in an area out of his reach. As well, there are many options that you can choose for your garden that will be safe in the instances of pet exploration and digging.