What is Burning Bush Poisoning?
These plants bloom from early May through late June, although the entire plant is poisonous to dogs, including the bark of the bush or tree. The plant itself is usually grown as a shrub or bush, although it can grow quite large if left uncropped. The flowers are either maroon or green, the berries are yellow, white, yellow, or maroon, and the leaves turn bright red in the fall. Even though the entire plant is poisonous, the taste is extremely bitter and most dogs do not eat enough for it to be fatal. However, there are those that will eat anything, no matter what it tastes like. It is best to make sure you do not have any burning bush plants in the area where your dog plays.
Your dog can become violently ill from eating any part of the burning bush (Euonymus atropurpurea) due to alkaloids and cardiac glycosides. The burning bush is also called the wahoo, summer cypress, strawberry bush, and spindle tree, but they are all the same plant, and all are poisonous to dogs as well as other animals and children. Similar to many other plants, the alkaloid can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms and the cardiac glycosides may trigger heart rhythm irregularities. The burning bush has a bitter taste that many dogs do not like, but some dogs are not deterred by that so they may eat a lethal amount before anyone can notice.
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Symptoms of Burning Bush Poisoning in Dogs
The signs of burning bush poisoning may not be evident until the toxins have been absorbed enough to cause serious symptoms, like cardiac irregularities or seizure. Therefore, it is important to take notice of any abnormal behavior, and call the veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms that are most often reported are:
- Abdominal pain
- Breathing difficulties
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive sweating (diaphoresis)
- Extremely low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Heart rhythm abnormalities
- Loss of sight
Causes of Burning Bush Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of burning bush poisoning is consumption of any parts of the bush, including the flowers and berries.
- Cardiac glycosides cling to your dog’s cells and increases sodium and potassium to unsafe levels.
Diagnosis of Burning Bush Poisoning in Dogs
As with any kind of suspected poisoning, bring a sample of the plant so the veterinarian can get a definitive diagnosis more quickly. The faster the diagnosis, the sooner your dog’s treatment can begin. The veterinarian will start your dog on an IV to provide fluids while he gives your dog a complete physical examination. This will include your dog’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, breath sounds, body temperature, weight, reflexes, and oxygen saturation level (pulse oximetry). They will need your dog’s medical history, including any medical and vaccination records, recent injury or illness, incidences of strange behavior, and changes in appetite.
A number of laboratory tests will be done, such as a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, fecal examination, biochemistry profile, blood gas panel, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and electrolyte panel. It is also important to get a blood glucose level because cardiac glycosides can lower the blood sugar to a dangerous level. An electrocardiogram (ECG) will be used to monitor your dog’s heart rate and functioning. This is a simple and painless procedure. The veterinarian will also need to get chest and abdominal radiographs (x-rays) to check pulmonary (lung) function.
Treatment of Burning Bush Poisoning in Dogs
To flush the toxins from your dog’s body, IV fluids will be continued and oxygen will be added if necessary. If it has not been more than a few hours since ingestion, the veterinarian will induce vomiting with a hydrogen peroxide mixture. A gastric lavage will be 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 will also be given to absorb whatever poisons are left. If your dog has been having convulsions, paraldehyde will be given through the IV. This medication helps to calm your dog and reduces anxiety as well. Your veterinarian may decide to keep your dog overnight for observation, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Recovery of Burning Bush Poisoning in Dogs
Once your dog returns home, it is important to give him a safe and quiet place to rest for at least a few days. Cage rest may be necessary if your dog is not the type to sit still very often. Too much exertion could cause a relapse and another trip to the veterinarian. To prevent this from happening again, it may be best to get rid of your burning bush plants, or fence them off so your dog cannot get to them.