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The Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) is a flower that physically resembles a true Crocus plant, but is actually a lily. Like other lilies in the Colchicum family, it contains a poison called colchicine for which there is no known antidote. Ingestion of this plant, also known as the Meadow Saffron or naked lady, can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, damage to multiple internal organs, and without treatment will usually lead to death. If you have seen your canine companion dining on these flowers, contact your veterinarian immediately.
The Autumn Crocus, also known as the Meadow Saffron, is a member of the lily family that contains a potent poison, colchicine. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet has ingested Autumn Crocus.
Symptoms from ingestion of the Autumn Crocus may occur directly after consumption or may take several days to appear. If your pet has eaten any part of an Autumn Crocus or is showing signs of toxicity your veterinarian should be contacted as soon as possible. This type of poisoning should be treated as an urgent situation.
The Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) is not, as it’s name suggests, a crocus. Although its appearance is that of a crocus, it actually belongs to the Lily family. It can be differentiated from a true Crocus by the number of stamens as flowers in the true Crocus family will have only three stamens and the Autumn Crocus has six. Flowers from the actual crocus family may cause gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, and diarrhea, but are not generally fatal. If untreated, the poison from the Autumn Crocus can become terminal. If your pet has eaten either type of flower a call to the veterinarian is recommended.
The chemical in the Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) that causes it to be toxic is colchicine. Colchicine is present in other members of the Liliaceae (Lily) family of plants as well and is often used to treat gout and Behçet's disease in small doses in humans. In larger doses, the toxicity limits its usefulness for humans as well as canines.
If you see your pet consuming the Autumn crocus identification is often all that is required for diagnosing the origin of your pet’s difficulty. If your canine ate a crocus and you are uncertain of the type, take your pet as well as a sample of any remaining plant material into the veterinarian to ensure a speedier identification for treatment. If the ingestion of the plant was not witnessed your veterinarian will take special note of any opportunistic eating that was witnessed or suspected in addition to any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is taking in an attempt to rule out other toxins or drug interactions. A biochemistry profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis are likely to be completed at this time as well, with particular attention being paid to results regarding liver and kidney functionality. If any plant material is found in the vomit or stools, this will help confirm the diagnosis.
Initial treatment will depend on how long it has been since the flower was ingested and if any symptoms have commenced. In almost all cases your dog will be admitted to the veterinary hospital. If the Autumn Crocus was consumed recently and if there are no symptoms showing as of yet, vomiting will most likely be induced to prevent the absorption of the colchicine into the bloodstream. Activated charcoal will be given to attempt to soak up as much of the toxin as possible. If it has been a longer period of time, the veterinarian may choose to perform a gastric lavage under general sedation to remove as much toxin from the patient’s stomach as possible. There is no antidote to colchicine, so treatment beyond that is supportive. The supportive treatment is likely to include IV fluids for dehydration and combinations of electrolytes and sugars to adjust for any imbalances. Oxygen may also be given to the dog if breathing is becoming difficult.
Ensuring that the recuperating patient has a calm and quiet environment to return home to will help speed recovery. Plenty of fresh water should be made available and extra bathroom breaks should be expected. Patients that are recovering from anesthesia for gastric lavage may have coordination difficulties when they first get home, and they are often confused and disoriented. Isolation from other pets and from children is generally advised until the medication has fully cleared your companion’s system. Your veterinarian may recommend more frequent monitoring of your pet’s blood chemistry levels, particularly in relation to kidney and liver functionality or impairment.
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I'd like to know if the drops of water that comes from the transpiration of the plants are poisoning. BEcause my kid always licked them. No symptomps this far.
Feb. 4, 2018
Dr. Michele K. DVM
Thank you for your email. I would not think that water condensation on the plants should be toxic, but it might be a good idea to keep them out of reach of your pet.
Feb. 4, 2018
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