What is Branching Ivy Poisoning?
Branching ivy has many other names, but they all have the same toxic chemicals: didehydrofal, carinol, falcardinol, and triterpenoid saponins, (hederagenin), which is a steroid saponin glycoside. Saponins can be found in over 400 species of plants in 60 families, but most are not toxic, such as asparagus and spinach. The gastrointestinal symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea pose the highest risk for dogs due to dehydration, although the respiratory symptoms can also be fatal because the swelling in the bronchioles can cause suffocation similar to an asthma attack. If you think your dog has eaten some kind of ivy plant, it is best to go to the veterinarian or animal hospital right away. Exposure to the plant or dust from the ivy can produce irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat as well.
Branching ivy (also called common, English, glacier, needlepoint, sweetheart, and California ivy) contains triterpenoid saponins (hederagenin), and polyacetylene compounds, such as falcarinol and didehydrofalcarinol, which are poisonous to dogs. These toxins will make your dog violently ill, and can possibly even be fatal if eaten, depending on the amount consumed and your dog’s state of health. The main symptoms you will see right away are vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea. However, the symptoms can get extremely dangerous quickly if it affects your dog’s respiratory system. Coming into contact with the plant can also cause dermatitis in some dogs, which is usually mild and will go away on its own.
Symptoms of Branching Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of branching ivy poisoning vary depending on the size and health of your dog and the amount of ivy your dog ingested. Oral poisoning is the worst, and eating the leaves is more toxic than the berries because the leaves have a higher concentration of hederagenin. The most commonly reported signs of oral poisoning are:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Breathing difficulty
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Inability to urinate
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle weakness
Topical Ivy Poisoning
- Inflammation of mucous membranes
- Itchy skin
- Painful red rash
- Watery eyes
- Topical ivy poisoning from skin exposure
- Oral ivy poisoning from ingestion of any part of the plant or berries
Causes of Branching Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The branching ivy can cause gastrointestinal symptoms that can lead to dehydration, along with signs of respiratory trouble. These symptoms are caused by compounds within the plant.
- Polyacetylene compounds (falcarinol and didehydrofalcarinol)
- Triterpenoid saponins (hederagenin)
Diagnosis of Branching Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
Bring a sample of the plant with you to help the veterinarian get the correct diagnosis because there are so many kinds of ivy. Diagnosing a poisoning in a dog is sometimes difficult if you do not actually see your dog eat the ivy. However, your veterinarian will give your dog a thorough physical examination to rule out other problems while giving your dog IV fluids if dehydration is evident. Sometimes the veterinarian will find pieces of the plant in your dog’s vomit or fecal matter while doing the examination, which can help speed up the diagnosis. A complete check of your dog’s vital signs, blood pressure, weight, reflexes, vision, respiration and heart rate will be done to give your veterinarian an idea of how your dog’s overall health is and if the poison has done damage to any vital organs. For a definitive diagnosis, the vomited contents are examined through a microscope.
Some other tests that will be performed are complete blood count (CBC), blood gases, electrolyte and chemistry panel, urinalysis, and fecal examination. Radiographs (x-rays) of the abdomen can help the veterinarian determine whether the stomach is clear of all plant matter.
Treatment of Branching Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will first give your dog oxygen and start IV fluids, which help stop dehydration and flush your dog’s system. The veterinarian will then induce vomiting and perform a gastric lavage. This procedure is done by inserting a tube into the stomach through your dog’s nose or mouth and pumping in small amounts of saline solution to clear the stomach contents. Activated charcoal may be used to soak up the toxins so they are not absorbed into the stomach or other tissues. If your dog has been having convulsions, paraldehyde will be given through the IV. This medication helps relax your dog and reduces anxiety. Your veterinarian may decide to keep your dog overnight for observation, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Recovery of Branching Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The outlook for your dog is excellent if you get treatment right away and your dog was in good health to begin with. Ivy poisoning is usually not fatal unless your dog is ill, very old, or very young. Your veterinarian may suggest a bland diet and cage rest for your dog for a few days to help him heal faster. In the meantime, get rid of any ivy your dog has access to and if you have any questions or concerns, call your veterinarian.