What is Buttercup Poisoning?
The buttercup is also known as butter cress or figwort, and can be found almost anywhere growing wild, but most often found in fields and meadows. The flower can be many shades, but most are yellow or white with a yellow center. It is most toxic in the springtime when it is flowering. Although the flower and plant taste bad, many dogs will chew on and eat just about anything. The pain and bad taste are usually enough to stop most dogs from eating a fatal amount, but even a small amount can be deadly for a small puppy or older dog.
The buttercup is a name for the large (400 varieties) group of flowers called ranunculus, which are almost always adorned with yellow or white and yellow flowers. When chewed or crushed, the chemical ranunculin turns into protoanemonin, which is poisonous to dogs when eaten and can also cause skin irritation with contact. Because the oil in the plant causes painful blisters in the mouth and on the tongue, most dogs will not eat enough for it to be fatal. However, it is important to know that the original symptoms can be serious for older dogs or puppies. In fact, it can be dangerous to any dog without treatment because of dehydration or infection.
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Symptoms of Buttercup Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of poisoning vary depending on the method of contact. Typically, topical poisoning does not need treatment unless it is causing severe discomfort. Oral poisoning is always worth a trip to the veterinarian no matter how much your dog ate, even if there are no obvious symptoms.
Topical Buttercup Poisoning
- Blistering in the exposed area
- Painful inflammation of mucus membranes
- Rash or swelling of the skin
Oral Buttercup Poisoning
- Blisters in the mouth or oral cavity
- Blood in the urine
- Bloody diarrhea
- Enlarged liver (hepatitis)
- Excessive salivation (hypersalivation)
- Severe blistering of the mucus membranes and gastrointestinal tract
- Walking difficulties
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Topical buttercup poisoning occurs when any part of your dog’s body is exposed to a plant in the ranunculus family
- Oral buttercup poisoning is caused by your dog ingesting any part of a plant from the ranunculus family
Causes of Buttercup Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of topical buttercup poisoning is:
- Exposure to any part of a plant in the ranunculus family
- Exposure to the dust or oils from a plant in the ranunculus family
The cause of oral buttercup poisoning is:
- Eating any part of a plant in the ranunculus family
- Eating food contaminated with part of a plant in the ranunculus family
Diagnosis of Buttercup Poisoning in Dogs
If you know that your dog has eaten part of a buttercup plant, try to bring a piece of it with you to your veterinarian or animal hospital. This will help speed the diagnosis so the veterinarian can decide on a treatment plan faster. Be prepared to give the veterinarian your dog’s complete medical history, including recent injuries and illnesses, incidences of abnormal behavior, and changes in diet. Of course, as with any illness or injury, a complete physical must be done on your dog. This will include checking your dog’s body temperature, weight, reflexes, blood pressure, breath sounds, oxygen level, respiration and heart rate.
The veterinarian will check your dog’s mouth and throat for blistering, and may do an endoscopy to get a better look at your dog’s lower throat and esophagus. This procedure is done with an endoscope, which is a long, thin, flexible tube with a camera and light attached to get a better look at your dog’s upper digestive system. A comprehensive set of laboratory tests are also necessary, such as a urinalysis, complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry panel, glucose level, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), fecal examination, electrolyte panel, and liver enzyme profile. Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) will be done to examine the lower digestive tract and stomach. However, since x-rays cannot show the soft tissues in the stomach well, an ultrasound will also be done to check for lesions and infection. If the veterinarian needs a better view, a CT scan or MRI may be performed as well.
Treatment of Buttercup Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian will admit your dog to the hospital if he is showing any serious symptoms, and start IV fluids for dehydration and to flush the toxins from your dog’s system. In most cases, your dog will already be vomiting. If not, the veterinarian will induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to absorb the toxins and help them pass through your dog’s body without causing any more lesions or other damage. Medication is not usually effective in this type of poisoning, besides antibiotics and IV fluids to flush the system.
Recovery of Buttercup Poisoning in Dogs
Your dog will probably be back to normal by the next day, depending on how severe the symptoms were and how much buttercup plant your dog consumed. Continue to give your dog plenty of fluids and rest, and keep him on a bland diet for several days. Be sure to call your veterinarian if you have any more problems or questions, and make every effort to keep your dog away from buttercup plants.