What is Apple Leaf Croton Poisoning?
The apple leaf croton is one of many varieties of an ornamental plant which is popular as a house plant due to its colorful leaves. Naturally occurring chemicals known as diterpenes, including 5-deoxyingenol, are found in the bark, roots, and sap of the plant. If chewed or swallowed these chemicals can cause swelling and blistering in the mouth, and if enough is ingested it can also cause vomiting and diarrhea. The sap can also cause an eczema-like reaction when it comes in contact with skin, particularly with repeated contact.
The apple leaf croton is one of several varieties of croton, a tropical plant selected for its colorful leaves. Chemicals from the bark, roots, and sap can cause discomfort if chewed or swallowed.
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Symptoms of Apple Leaf Croton Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms from ingesting material from the apple leaf croton are generally mild and rarely require any form of hospitalization. It is also believed that the chemical that causes the reaction, 5-deoxyingenol, is a co-carcinogen in addition to being an irritant to skin tissues.
- Abdominal pain
- Blistering in mouth
- Eye irritation
- Irritation to mucus membranes
- Skin irritation
The apple leaf croton is one of several different varieties of croton classified as a Codiaeum variegatum, grown for its colorful leaves. All varieties of croton contain 5-deoxyingenol just like the apple leaf variety, and can cause similar symptoms as the irritant passes through the digestive tract. These plants are also known for causing eczema-like dermatitis when the skin is exposed to the sap. Other plants which contain varying amounts of the toxin 5-deoxyingenol can include:
- Euphorbia milii (Cancer weed, Petty spurge, Radium weed)
- Euphorbia peplus (Christ's Crown, Crown-of-thorns, The Christ's Thorn)
- Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia)
Causes of Apple Leaf Croton Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of apple leaf croton poisoning are caused by naturally occurring chemicals known as diterpenes, including 5-deoxyingenol. These diterpenes developed in the bark, roots and sap of the plants as a chemical defense against herbivores, and can be quite toxic to horses and cattle. While distressing to most other types of animals, it is generally not fatal.
Diagnosis of Apple Leaf Croton Poisoning in Dogs
If you see your pet ingesting the plant, identification is often all that is required for diagnosing the origin of your pet’s malaise. If you did not observe your pet ingesting the plant your veterinarian may recommend a visit to the office based on the symptoms presented. Your veterinarian will want to take special note of any opportunistic eating in addition to any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is taking in an attempt to rule out interactions or other toxins. A complete blood count may be taken at this time, as well as a biochemistry profile and urinalysis in order to reveal any diseases, toxins, or imbalances. Any spots of dermatitis from contact with the sap will also be examined at this time. If your dog has ingested enough of the plant material that vomiting is occurring, then the vomitus will also be examined and tested for toxins. Plant material found in the vomit may help confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Apple Leaf Croton Poisoning in Dogs
Initially, treatment will begin with a thorough rinsing of the mouth and affected areas with clean water to remove as much of the toxin from exposed tissue as possible. Your dog may also appreciate an ice cube to reduce minor pain and swelling in the mouth. 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 the treatment that is required. When the reaction is more serious, your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate pain reliever or antihistamine to give your dog to reduce the swelling and discomfort. If vomiting or diarrhea are occurring excessively your veterinarian may recommend coming to their office for supportive treatment. IV fluid treatment will be administered at the veterinarian’s office to prevent dehydration and if an antihistamine was not previously dispensed it may be administered at this time as an intramuscular injection. Gastro-protective medications such as Imodium or Pepcid AC may also be recommended to prevent any damage from occurring to the lining of the patient’s stomach.
Recovery of Apple Leaf Croton Poisoning in Dogs
In most cases, the effects will wane in just a few hours. Larger than normal doses or a sensitivity to the chemical in the plant may cause excessive nausea and vomiting. The early therapy for dogs showing gastric distress generally involves withholding food until vomiting has stopped for at least 12 hours. This technique is often very effective in giving the dog’s stomach and intestines time to recover from the vomiting. Water and crushed ice should be offered often during this time in small amounts. After the initial withholding period only soft, bland foods should be offered for the next 24 hours or so. The ideal diet at that point would include one easily-digestible carbohydrate along with a mild protein source. Suitable carbohydrates could include cooked rice, pasta or potatoes, and the protein would be something like unseasoned boiled ground beef, non-fat cottage cheese, or skinless white chicken meat.