What is Coleus Poisoning?
Many people use this oregano-flavored plant as an herb for meat and stuffing. Some doctors in Africa and India actually use it as an herbal medicine for conditions ranging from a cough to a scorpion bite. Like many other essential oils, the oil from the coleus is toxic to your dog and can be absorbed through the skin immediately, causing irritation and possible burns to the skin and depression of the central nervous system. This can quickly become a life-threatening emergency if your dog was exposed long enough to cause respiratory depression as well. Because these oils are absorbed so fast, eating any part of the coleus or its oils can be fatal in some dogs. If you think your dog has eaten coleus, it is essential to take your furry friend to the veterinarian or animal hospital right away.
Coleus is a perennial succulent herbal plant in Africa that has been cultivated as a houseplant for use in the United States. The coleus has green fleshy leaves and hairy stems with small purple flowers. Exposure to coleus leaves, stems, or juices can produce painful inflammation and irritation of the skin, and possibly chemical burns and damage to tissues. In addition, consuming any part of this plant can lead to gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea or central nervous system issues like dizziness and muscle tremors.
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Symptoms of Coleus Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of coleus poisoning depend on the amount of plant your dog ate or was exposed to. Some signs to watch for are:
- Appetite loss
- Bloody diarrhea
- Difficulty breathing
- Hypothermia in large exposures
- Muscle tremors and weakness
- Pawing at the face and mouth
- Redness or burns on the skin, gums, or tongue
- Walking difficulty
- Weakness or lethargy
Coleus is a popular name for many types of plants which were in the genus lamiaceae and are now in two new genera solenostemon and plectranthus. Coleus also has many other common names.
- Bread and butter plant
- Country borage
- East Indian thyme
- Indian borage
- Spanish thyme
- Stinging thyme
Causes of Coleus Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of coleus poisoning is exposure to or consumption of any part of the coleus. The essential oils are toxic to dogs and other small animals and children and are quickly absorbed through the skin, causing intense irritation and central nervous system abnormalities.
Diagnosis of Coleus Poisoning in Dogs
It is a good idea to take a sample of the plant to let the veterinarian take a look at it. This can aid in finding the right diagnosis in less time, making treatment that much faster. Your dog has a much better chance of recovery if the treatment is done within three hours of consuming the coleus plant. Tell the veterinarian as much as you can about what occurred, including how much and what time the plant was eaten. Do not forget to give them all the details about your dog’s medical history.
A thorough examination of your dog will be done including heart rate, respirations, reflexes, body temperature, blood pressure, lung sounds, weight, and overall appearance. Laboratory tests will be conducted next, which will include blood and urine tests, x-rays, and liver function tests. An ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI may also be needed to get a better look at your dog’s organ condition and function. An electrocardiogram (EKG) can show the muscular and electrical performance of the heart.
Treatment of Coleus Poisoning in Dogs
In this situation, the veterinarian will not want to induce vomiting or give activated charcoal because this can make the effects worse. Rather, anti-vomiting medication will be given and intravenous (IV) fluids will be provided while they observe your dog for other symptoms. In addition, pain medication and denamarin (liver protecting medication) will be prescribed. If your dog is experiencing respiratory distress, oxygen therapy will be part of the treatment protocol.
The veterinarian will have evaluated the condition of your pet’s mucous membranes and gastrointestinal tract, administering medication to soothe the irritation and inflammation. If the symptoms are severe, the veterinarian may want to keep your companion overnight for observation.
Recovery of Coleus Poisoning in Dogs
Depending on the amount of coleus your dog consumed, the chance of recovery is moderate to good. If your dog is treated right away, the chances of recovery are good, as long as there has not been any serious kidney or liver damage. Any kind of organ damage may lead to devastating complications which may be fatal. To prevent this from happening again, remove the coleus plant and any other toxic plants from the areas that your dog has access to. Follow-up appointments will be necessary to evaluate your dog’s organ function to ensure all is returning to normal.
Coleus Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a 10 month old puppy and I found some of the plants that have been vomited this morning when I woke up . We went for a walk he is still active and ate his food for breakfast this morning. I haven't seen any real symptoms but after I read this I am nervous of what could happen to Him. I don't want to freak out and go to my vet and have them charge me tons of money when really he is OK because he already got it out of her system . Any advice ?
The essential oils from a coleus plant are what cause coleus poisoning and whilst plant matter may have been vomited up, the essential oils may have been absorbed which may cause gastric irritation and other symptoms. I always recommend visit your Veterinarian in cases of poisoning, but if your Veterinarian is closed (it is Saturday) and no Emergency Veterinarian is available, you can give some Pepcid (famotidine) at a dose of 0.25mg/lb twice per day and ensure he stays hydrated, feed a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice in small meals and after two days slowly reintroduce his normal diet; check for any irritation from the essential oils from around Jackson’s mouth and if you notice any trembling, drooling, bloodly diarrhoea (digested or fresh), weakness or difficulty walking visit the nearest Veterinarian regardless of distance. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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