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Anthurium, most commonly known as the Flamingo plant, is a decorative tropical plant that is prized for it’s bright, uniquely shaped flowers. All parts of the Flamingo plant contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals and these crystals can cause intense pain and irritation when chewed or swallowed. This irritation usually prevents animals from doing more than sampling the plant. On rare occasions, the dog may swallow larger amounts of plant material. On those occasions, your canine companion may require a visit to the veterinarian’s office.
Anthurium, also known as the Flamingo plant, contains calcium oxalate crystals which can cause intense pain and irritation in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract when chewed or swallowed.
The Anthurium family of plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in all parts of the plant. When chewed or swallowed these crystals can cause:
The anthurium plant is a tropical plant with waxy-looking leaves and a large heart-shaped flower on a tall stem. It most commonly called a Flamingo plant but also goes by the names Painted Tongue, Tail Flower, and Laceleaf. Several other types of plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which are the cause of irritation from anthurium variety plants. These plants can include:
All parts of the anthurium plant contain the calcium oxalate crystals that cause the distress. Calcium oxalate is a calcium salt of oxalic acid which produces numbness or irritation to the tissues it comes in contact with. Chewing may cause immediate pain and inflammation to the mouth and throat as these crystals are embedded in the soft tissues. If any of the sap or plant material is swallowed the irritation can extend to the throat and down the GI tract, causing swelling and severe pain. The swelling may cause breathing difficulty if the airway is blocked.
Many of the symptoms of exposure to the calcium oxalate crystals from the anthurium plants will present immediately, so identification of the plant is often all that is required for diagnosing the cause of distress. In some cases, symptoms can take up to two hours to show up. If you did not observe what your pet ingested, or if your dog ingested large amounts of the plant material, your veterinarian may recommend a visit to the office. Your veterinarian will want to take special note any events whereby your pet encountered and ate anything he should not have, in addition to any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is on. A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis likely to be done at this time as well in order to point out any concurrent diseases or disorders. If your dog has ingested enough of the plant material that they are vomiting, then the vomitus will also be examined and tested for toxins. Plant material, such as leaves or stems, may help confirm the diagnosis.
Immediate treatment will start with a thorough rinsing of the mouth and affected areas with clean water to remove as many of the crystals as possible. You may want to offer your dog something cool to eat or drink to ease the pain until you are able to contact your veterinarian. In most cases, the discomfort and unpleasant taste will prevent most canines from ingesting much of the actual plant material and so rinsing the mouth area may be all that is required. In certain circumstances, your veterinarian will recommend giving your dog an appropriate pain reliever or antihistamine as well.
If a larger amount of the plant material or sap was ingested a visit to the veterinarian’s office may be requested. IV fluid treatment will be most likely given to prevent dehydration and if an antihistamine was not previously administered it may be administered at this time as an intramuscular injection. Gastro-protective medications may also be recommended to prevent damage to the lining of the stomach. If the airway is significantly swollen your canine may need to be kept under observation at the office until the swelling subsides.
Prognosis for dogs affected by ingesting smaller amounts of the plants containing the calcium oxalate crystals, such as the anthurium plant, is usually quite good. The effects of the crystals in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract usually dissipate within twelve to twenty-four hours from ingestion, although any swelling in the airway should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Massive doses are rare due to the initial pain and discomfort in the mouth. When they do occur they can cause liver and kidney damage so the liver and kidneys may need regular monitoring in the event of the ingestion of substantial quantities.
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