What is Buddhist Pine Poisoning?
Common names for the Buddhist pine include yew plum pine, fern pine, yew pine, Japanese yew, and southern yew. These are not really yew trees, so they are not as toxic, but they can produce some severe side effects if eaten that can be lethal if not treated. These plants grow mainly in the south (Texas, Louisiana, and Florida) and the west (California, Arizona, and Oregon), but are beginning to be more prominent in other states with warm climates. Your dog may find the cones from this tree to be quite tasty, so a lethal amount can be consumed in a fairly short time. It is best not to let your dog have any access to this plant. If you believe that your dog has Buddhist pine poisoning, call your veterinarian right away.
Buddhist Pine (Podocarpus macrophylla of the Podocarpaceae family) are evergreen (green all year long) shrubs or trees with needle-like leaves and pods that are fleshy and toxic. The entire tree can be toxic to dogs if eaten, and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea even with the consumption of a small amount of cones, which have the highest concentration of the toxic chemical. Unfortunately, it is unknown what chemical in the plant is poisonous. However, the results are similar to other chemical agents, so the symptoms would be similar. The major threat is dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea.
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Symptoms of Buddhist Pine Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of eating Buddhist pine are different for each dog as it depends on the part of the plant they consumed (needles, bark, cones), the amount that was eaten, and the overall health of your dog. Common symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
- Enlarged pupils
If too much vomiting has caused dehydration:
- Difficulty breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Life-threatening changes in heart rate and blood pressure
Causes of Buddhist Pine Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of the toxicity in Buddhist pine plants is not known, but your dog can get a toxic dose from several parts of the plant, including:
- Fruit (most toxic)
- Leaf blades
Diagnosis of Buddhist Pine Poisoning in Dogs
Bring a part of the plant that you believe your dog has eaten that made him sick. The veterinarian will be able to treat your dog sooner if he can make a definitive diagnosis right away. They will start your dog on fluids through an IV to combat dehydration and flush the toxins out faster. An electrocardiogram (ECG) will be done right away if there are any cardiac symptoms (heart rate increased or decreased) to monitor your dog’s heart rate while doing the physical examination. The physical includes weight, body temperature, pulse oximetry (blood oxygen level), blood pressure, breath sounds, and reflexes. The veterinarian may also perform a vision test and oral examination. Be sure to have your dog’s medical history, including any medical and vaccination records, recent injury or illness, strange behavior, and changes in appetite.
A variety of laboratory tests will be done, like a urinalysis, fecal examination, complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, blood gas panel, glucose level, and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). The veterinarian may decide to perform an endoscopy to check your dog’s airway and esophagus for any parts of the plant or fruit. The endoscope is a thin flexible tube with a light and camera on the end that helps the veterinarian see inside your dog’s throat without using surgery. Chest and abdominal x-rays, CT scan, and ultrasound may also be helpful in determining whether there is any more of the plant material left in your dog’s digestive system.
Treatment of Buddhist Pine Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will induce vomiting if your dog has not been doing so already. He will then perform a gastric lavage, which is done by inserting a tube into the stomach through your dog’s mouth and gently 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 your dog relax and reduces anxiety as well. Your veterinarian may also want to keep your dog overnight for observation, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Recovery of Buddhist Pine Poisoning in Dogs
When your dog is able to go home, you will need to keep him calm for a few days, so cage rest may be recommended. Your veterinarian will give you detailed instructions of what you should do, but it is important to provide plenty of fresh water and a bland diet for about a week. Be sure to keep your dog away from these and all other poisonous plants and trees. Call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.