What is Calla Lily Poisoning?
The calla lily is a beautifully colored flower that originated from the southern part of Africa. Grown from a rhizome or a bulb, many people enjoy calla lilies in their gardens or even as houseplants. They come in a variety of colors, such as purple, pink, green, orange, and more. Calla lilies tend to flourish in warmer climates.
These large tubular flowers have waxy and thick petals, and although they are not true lilies, they are appearance is very similar to lilies. They are members of the Arum family, and although these perennials are quite breathtaking on display, they are known to be toxic to dogs. Related flowers, such as the philodendron, arisaema, caladium, dieffenbachia, and colocasia are all within the genus of arum and all contain raphides, a form of calcium oxalate crystals.
Calla lily poisoning in dogs occurs when dogs consume all or part of a calla lily plant. The calla lily contains a natural defense compound known as insoluble calcium oxalate.
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Symptoms of Calla Lily Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of calla lily ingestion can vary depending on the amount ingested by the dog. If you suspect your dog has ingested this plant it is important to take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms include:
- Swelling of the tongue and lips
- Swelling of the oral cavity
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pawing at the face
- Foaming at the mouth
- Oral pain
The calla lily comes in many different names, and having knowledge of the different names is very important, especially if you have one in your home. If you have a plant by the following name in your home for in your gardens, be sure to always monitor your dog around the plant or remove the plant from the home if you are concerned for the safety of your dog. Types of names include:
- Pig lily
- Trumpet lily
- Garden calla
- Aaron lily
- White arum
- Florist’s calla
Causes of Calla Lily Poisoning in Dogs
Causes of calla lily poisoning are from ingesting any part of the plant and coming into contact with the toxic substance. Causes of toxicity include:
- The release of the needle-sharp calcium oxalate crystals when chewed
- Calcium oxalate crystals penetrating the dog’s tissue
- Thin needles of crystalline, or raphides, contain sharp tips on the ends
- Raphides are injected into the dog’s tissue causing a release of histamines and irritation
Diagnosis of Calla Lily Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has eaten calla lily, a veterinarian needs to be seen as soon as possible. If the dog vomits on his own, the veterinarian may want to test the contents for toxicity. If you know your dog has eaten Calla Lily is very important to tell the veterinarian to help him with a rapid diagnosis and to treat the dog quickly.
The veterinarian will check your dog’s clinical signs, bloodwork, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. The physician will be checking for blood urea nitrogen elevations, elevations in creatinine, potassium, and phosphorus, which all are symptoms of poisoning by the plant. Elevations of the enzymes may also occur as well as hypoglycemia.
In the urine, the veterinarian will be checking to see any high amounts of protein, glucose, isosthenuria (renal damage), and casts in the urine produced by the kidneys. Damage from the calla lily will result in renal tubular cell abnormalities. Any of the above clinical signs usually develop within 12 hours of eating the plant.
Treatment of Calla Lily Poisoning in Dogs
In severe cases of calla lily ingestion, renal failure can occur in the dog and he may need to be euthanized. This solely depends on the amount of time for treatment to begin and the level of toxicity in the dog’s system. Treatment methods consist of:
Removal of Plant Particles
The veterinarian will want to immediately remove any plant particles from the mouth that the plant injected after chewing. The raphides are needle-sharp and are quite painful to your dog.
If your dog is having trouble breathing or is showing danger of asphyxiation due to swelling from the raphides, the veterinarian may administer a tube in the esophagus. Your dog will also need to be given oxygen therapy as well.
If your dog has not already vomited on his own, the veterinarian will want to induce vomiting to help rid the dog of poisons. Activated charcoal will be administered after emesis in order to help halt the absorption from the stomach.
IV fluids are very important in the treatment of dogs that have been poisoned with raphides. Diuresis will encourage urine excretion through the kidneys and keep your dog hydrated.
Recovery of Calla Lily Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog received treatment within 12 hours, the prognosis is good. However, he may need to be hospitalized in order to effectively recover. The veterinarian will determine how long he will need to stay for treatment. Usually within 12 to 48 hours the negative effects of the crystals, or raphides, begin to diminish.
If your dog is responding to treatment, the veterinarian will clear for his release to come home. The physician will also give you instructions on how to care for your dog at home. The physician will also want to see him for additional visits to check on his recovery, and may want to continue to monitor his kidneys and liver through bloodwork.
Every dog is different, and every dog response to the ingestion of insoluble calcium oxalate crystals differently. It is important to understand that when your dog is at home he must be monitored for overall behavior and new symptoms. If new symptoms occur, please contact your veterinarian.