What is Bear Grass Poisoning?
The name Bear Grass is used to refer to several grass-like plants that grow in the western and southwestern parts of the United States. Different types of Bear Grass can be found in floral decorations and the leaves are often dried to make baskets. The main species known by the name Bear Grass is Xerophyllum tenax. This plant is an important part of the fire ecology of the region since the roots can survive fire and Bear Grass is one of the first plants to grow back after a burning. Xerophyllum tenax grows to be about 4.5 feet tall with a fan of tough, olive-colored leaves protruding from the base of the plant. The flower stalk may be as high as six feet with many small cream-colored, saucer-shaped flowers that have a sweet aroma. Although it resembles a grass,
Xerophyllum tenax belongs to the Melanthiaceae (Bunchflower) family which is a member of the Liliales (Lily) order. This group of species is categorized by incompletely fused pistons and bunches of lily-like flowers and should be differentiated from species belonging to the Bear Grass subfamily which is part of the Asparagus Family, another subsection of the Lily order. Many types of Nolina species in this family are also referred to as Bear Grass. These plants are usually smaller, growing only about 1- 1 ½ feet tall with clusters of white flowers about 10 inches long. Xerophyllum tenax and other types of Bear Grass can be an important food source for deer, but many Lily-related species can be toxic to dogs and even more so to cats. This type of grass is too tough for dogs to digest, so it will make them vomit. More severe reactions could include swelling of the mouth and throat, diarrhea, and muscle convulsions, but this is more common in cats than dogs.
Bear Grass species grow wild throughout the southern and western parts of the United States and many are also cultivated for ornamental use in bouquets. Bear Grass can be mildly toxic to dogs with symptoms of vomiting and gastrointestinal upset.
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Symptoms of Bear Grass Poisoning in Dogs
These are the symptoms you should look for if your dog eats Bear Grass.
- Poor appetite
- Swelling in the mouth or throat
- Abdominal sensitivity
- Muscle convulsions
Bear grass is a common name that could be used to refer to a number of different plants.
- The most common wild species known by the name of Bear Grass
- This plant is found throughout western North America from British Columbia south to California and as far east as Wyoming
Nolina Species (Texas Bear Grass, Florida Bear Grass, Peninsula Bear Grass, Foothill Bear Grass etc.)
- The Nolina genus is a group of tropical flowering plants that have adapted to live in the desert
- They are found throughout Mexico, but their range also extends into the southern United States. Many species are also cultivated for ornamental use.
Causes of Bear Grass Poisoning in Dogs
These factors are often associated with Bear Grass poisoning.
- Dog eating a bouquet that contains Bear Grass
- Bear Grass growing in your garden
- Living in an area where Bear Grass grows wild
- Dogs that like to eat grass
Diagnosis of Bear Grass Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog eats a large amount of Bear Grass, you should call the veterinarian and discuss the chances of toxicity based on your dog’s weight and breed, as well as the species of grass. If the veterinarian wants to see your dog in person, bring a sample of the grass for analysis. Take immediate action for signs of severe vomiting, diarrhea and muscle spasms. If emergency veterinary treatment is not available, call a poison hotline and discuss what you think your dog ate with a professional agent.
Diagnosis will be based on symptoms and a history of grass ingestion. The veterinarian may order an abdominal x-ray to evaluate whether there is a ball of undigested grass in your dog’s stomach. If the vomit is a pinkish color, or there is actual blood in it this will suggest the grass is causing gastrointestinal irritation. Blood and urine tests may be necessary to rule out infection and other serious toxicities, especially if you didn’t see the incident and are unsure what is causing your dog’s symptoms.
Treatment of Bear Grass Poisoning in Dogs
Mild vomiting or gastrointestinal upset that passes quickly won’t require further treatment. If symptoms are severe, the veterinarian may prescribe antacids or medications to protect the stomach lining. If there is undigested grass stuck in your dog’s stomach, medication may be given to induce vomiting. In severe cases, gastric lavage under anesthesia could be necessary to remove the grass. Fluid treatment will be given for severe vomiting and diarrhea that leads to dehydration.
Recovery of Bear Grass Poisoning in Dogs
Bear Grass poisoning is typically mild and most dogs will make a complete recovery. However, it’s a good idea to keep track of the local species that cause problems for your dog and avoid them if possible. If your dog is prone to eating grasses, ask the veterinarian to recommend a species that is safe for him. Plant this type of grass around the house so that your dog will be less likely to be interested in toxic plants. Dogs should be trained not to eat floral bouquets, but it’s still a good idea to display flowers in places your dog can’t reach. Bear Grass and many other types of decorative species are unsafe for dogs to ingest.