What is Cuckoo Pint Poisoning?
The cuckoo pint plant has leaves with purple spots and a purple spike above the male and female flowers that all cuckoo pints have. The spike is hooded by a leaf similar to a cape that protects the flowers, which turn into berries in the fall. Insects that try to eat the flowers get trapped by the hairs around the spike. A nosy dog may get into one of these plants because it has an odor sort of like feces, which dogs seem attracted to. If your dog decides to take a bite, the microscopic needle-like crystals will bite back, making your dog think twice about eating any more. However, some dogs will keep eating anyway and this can be dangerous, producing severe swelling of the throat and airway which can suffocate your pet.
The cuckoo pint plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause serious discomfort if eaten or chewed on by your dog. The crystals are in small bundles called raphides and if your dog decides to make a snack out of the cuckoo pint plant, biting into one of these raphides will make it a snack to remember. The crystals embed themselves into the soft tissue of the mouth, tongue, lips, and throat immediately, which usually stops your dog from eating an amount large enough to cause any serious damage. However, if your dog is one of those who will keep eating regardless of the pain, the raphides may travel down the throat and airway until being embedded there, which can cause inflammation serious enough to cause breathing difficulty. In fact, in rare cases, it can cause suffocation and death if not treated right away.
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Symptoms of Cuckoo Pint Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of cuckoo pint poisoning can vary depending on how much was eaten. However, the most common symptoms are:
- Pain and inflammation of the mouth and throat
- Burning lips and tongue
- Foaming from the mouth
- Swallowing difficulty
- Inflammation of the face, lips, tongue, and mouth
- Throat swelling
- Difficulty breathing
The cuckoo-pint plant (arum maculatum) is part of the Araceae family and has many other names it is known by such as:
- Adam and Eve
- Adder's root
- Arum lily
- Cows and bulls
- Devils and angels
- Friar's cowl
- Jack in the pulpit
- Naked boys
- Naked girls
- Wake robin
- Wild arum
Causes of Cuckoo Pint Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of cuckoo pint poisoning is the consumption of any part of the plant. Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are present in the entire cuckoo pint plant, but most concentrated in the berries.
Diagnosis of Cuckoo Pint Poisoning in Dogs
If you believe your dog ate part of a cuckoo pint, take your pet to a veterinarian clinic hospital even if there are no symptoms. Dogs can hide their pain well so there could be damage going on that you do not notice. Bring a picture of the plant or a piece of it so the staff can get a good look at what it is your dog ate. An examination of your dog’s mouth and throat will be done right away to see if there are parts of the plant material or sap still remaining so they can rinse it away. This may require sedation, which will decrease the anxiety your dog is feeling as well as your own. The veterinarian will take a look at the rest of your dog’s face and skin to check for more plant materials or sap. In addition, your pet’s weight, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breath sounds will be checked and recorded.
An endoscopy will be done to check the airway and esophagus for plant material and swelling. This requires your dog to be sedated as well and during this time, your veterinarian may apply some anesthetic ointment to ease the pain and any inflammation found. The veterinarian can also remove any remaining plant material in the esophagus and airway if needed. Laboratory tests such as blood count, arterial blood gas (ABG), chemistry panel, urinalysis, and blood glucose level will be done next. Radiographs (x-rays) will be done to check for any blockages and an ultrasound can show if there is any inflammation in the stomach or intestinal tract.
Treatment of Cuckoo Pint Poisoning in Dogs
As always, treatment will depend on the test results and how well your dog is feeling at this point. If the veterinarian has taken a good look and does not see any swelling or damage to the throat and stomach, she may just rinse away the plant residue and send you home. However, if there is swelling present or if the veterinarian sees any plant particles in your dog’s system, a bit more will need to be done to be sure your dog is okay.
Intravenous (IV) fluids will flush the plant residue and particles through your dog’s system to ensure that there will be no further swelling or irritation. This will also prevent dehydration if your dog has been vomiting or had diarrhea. In addition, your dog may not feel like eating after such a painful meal, so they may add some nutrients to the fluids to help maintain energy and vitamins and aid in the healing process.
Your veterinarian may want to keep your dog for a few hours or overnight for observation if there was any serious swelling or if there are still plant remains in your pet’s stomach. This is to make sure there are no ill effects while the remains are passing through your buddy’s system.
Recovery of Cuckoo Pint Poisoning in Dogs
Your dog should be fine once you are allowed to go home, but you may notice an appetite loss for a day or two. The veterinarian will recommend a diet to try if this happens. Give your pet plenty of fresh water and be sure to call the veterinarian if there are any problems.