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The scientific name of Coleus amboinicus was used for the bread and butter plant until recently when the name was corrected to Plectranthus amboinicus. This is a member of the Lamiaceae family of plants, which includes mint, basil, and lavender. It is used as an ingredient in cooking as well as being employed in traditional medications around the world. Although non-toxic to humans, the essential oils in this plant are not well tolerated by our pets and may cause severe gastrointestinal distress.
Although considered non-toxic to humans, the essential oils in the bread and butter plant are toxic to canines, and cause gastrointestinal distress.
The plant is similar to the other members of the mint (Lamiaceae) family of plants in its aromatic and flavoring properties. Although it is non-toxic to humans, the essential oils can be moderately toxic to our pets.
The coleus plant has several beneficial uses for humans. It is often used as a flavoring in meat and poultry stuffing, and as a complement to robust meat dishes such as lamb or game. The flavor has a strong resemblance to oregano and may provide the flavoring to products that include the ingredient of “oregano flavoring”. The coleus plant has been used throughout the world as a traditional medicine, as well. Most of the time it is used as a treatment for coughs, sore throats, and congestion, but some cultures use it as a remedy for such varied disorders as scorpion bites, colic, and hiccups.
The poisonous factors in this plant reside in the essential oils that the plant produces. When ingested in these oils can cause severe gastric distress for our pets. The essential oils that are present in the Coleus/Plectranthus amboinicus include carvacrol, δ-cadinene, β-caryophyllene, and thymol. The amounts and ratios of these essential oils within the plant are often variable and can be affected by the seasons.
If you witnessed your pet consuming the bread and butter plant or product containing its essential oil, then the identification of the ingredient that was ingested may be all that is required for diagnosing the origin of your pet’s discomfort. If the causes of the symptoms are not immediately apparent, your veterinarian will ask you questions regarding any inappropriate eating that may have occurred, and any current prescriptions or supplements being administered to your dog. This will help to narrow down which toxin is activating the reaction.
If your canine ingested a product with this plant, the ingredient list might assist the veterinarian in getting an idea of how much of the plant material or oil was consumed as well as alerting them to any additional toxins present in the product. Many of the symptoms are similar to symptoms and signs of other types of toxins, and supportive treatment is likely to be initiated before a definitive diagnosis has been determined.
In most cases, treatment for consumption of the bread and butter plant can be handled at home with relative ease. Contacting your veterinarian before starting any treatments is recommended to get specific instructions for your pet’s situation, and to determine if either the reaction to the toxin or the amount eaten warrants a visit to the veterinarian’s office. Early therapy for dogs showing gastrointestinal distress generally involves the withholding food until the vomiting and diarrhea have ceased for approximately half a day. This technique is designed to give the dog’s stomach muscles time to recover from the gastric spasms caused by the vomiting, and may be what your veterinarian recommends. Water and crushed ice should be offered often during this treatment to combat dehydration, but only in small amounts. Only soft, bland foods should be provided for at least a day or two after the withholding period to avoid additional gastrointestinal distress. The ideal recovery diet should include one easily-digestible carbohydrate and one mild protein source.
If excessive vomiting or diarrhea become a concern, your veterinarian will recommend bringing your pet into their office for additional supportive treatments. IV fluid treatment will most likely be administered at the veterinarian’s office to prevent dehydration, and medications like Pepcid AC or Imodium may also be recommended for their gastroprotective properties. Do not give these medications to your pet without proper individual dosing amounts given to you by a veterinary professional.
In most cases, the effects of the toxin will disappear within just a few hours. If an unusually large quantity of the plant is eaten or if your dog is sensitive to the oils in the plant, it may cause excessive nausea and vomiting. One of the biggest dangers with such copious vomiting and diarrhea is the risk of dehydration. Your companion should be monitored carefully for signs of dehydration such as exhaustion, excessive panting, sunken eyes, loss of elasticity in the skin, and unsteadiness when standing. These symptoms may signal that the dog is in serious distress, and your veterinarian should be contacted for further instructions.
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