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There are many kinds of daphne, which can vary in toxicity. The toxins in the daphne are similar to the toxins found in the Euphorbiaceae family. When consumed, you may notice vomiting, blisters on your dog’s mouth, and watery diarrhea. The berries taste bitter, which usually prevents fatal doses, but it only takes a few berries so it is best to keep your yard clear of daphne and take your dog to the veterinarian or animal hospital right away if you suspect he has consumed or come into contact with any part of this toxic plant.
Daphne is a small shrub with glossy green leaves, red or white berries, and groups of four-lobed flowers that can be purple, pink, yellow-orange, or white. The daphne can also be referred to as spurge flax, dwarf bay, and paradise plant among others. Consumption of the berries, leaves, or bark of this plant can cause a dangerous effect on your dog’s gastrointestinal system. The toxins in daphne, prostratin (diterpene acetate) and daphnin (glycoside), are not only a danger to your dog’s stomach, but they can also trigger extreme diarrhea (dehydration), gastric ulcers, and degenerative changes in the liver. Skin or eye exposure to daphne can cause blistering, muscle pain, and irritates your dog’s mucus membranes.
The symptoms of daphne poisoning depend on the method of exposure and, in oral poisoning, which part of the plant is consumed. The berries are the most toxic, and it only takes a few to be fatal to a small to medium-sized dog. The most commonly reported symptoms are:
The causes of daphne poisoning are prostratin (diterpene acetate) and daphnin (glycoside) which are found in all parts of the plant including the bark. The berries hold the most concentrated amount of toxins, which makes them potentially fatal if more than a few are consumed.
The veterinarian can make a faster and more accurate diagnosis if you are able to bring a photo or a part of the plant you believe your dog has been exposed to, and if you can offer information on the amount and part eaten, how long ago this happened, and if you have noticed any symptoms. Even if this is your regular veterinarian it is best to bring your dog’s medical records with you. If you are unable to bring the records with you, relay as much information as you can about your pet's recent activity, behavior, and habits.
If your dog is in distress, the veterinarian will probably start IV fluids while he does a complete physical examination. This includes reflexes, body temperature, blood pressure, weight, heart rate, breath sounds, blood oxygen levels (pulse oximetry), and abdominal palpation. They will also examine your dog’s skin, coat, eyes, nose, ears, and mouth and look for any abnormalities, ulcers, or discharge. The veterinarian will also conduct some laboratory tests including a urinalysis, complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, blood gases, blood urea nitrogen, fecal examination, liver enzymes, and fungal swab. To get a look at your dog’s internal organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart), images will be taken with radiographs (x-rays), CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound.
To treat your dog for topical (skin) exposure, wash his entire coat with warm, soapy water for about five minutes. Rinse well and repeat this several times until you are sure the oils and sap are gone from your dog’s skin and coat. If you have any questions or concerns, call or visit your veterinarian.
For ocular (eye) exposure, it is best to bring your dog to the veterinarian for treatment because of the sensitivity of the eyes and toxicity of the poison. The veterinarian will rinse your dog’s eyes with a special saline solution and apply antibiotic drops and anesthetic gel for the pain.
Oral daphne poisoning is more difficult to treat, but the veterinarian will probably induce vomiting and perform a gastric lavage to clear any toxins from the stomach. Your dog may be kept overnight for observation if the symptoms are severe. Otherwise, the only treatments are supportive, such as oxygen, fluids, and gabapentin for seizure control if necessary.
Recovery for your dog is excellent if he did not eat more than a few berries. When your dog is able to return home, cage rest and a bland diet may be ordered for 24 to 48 hours. Be sure to give your dog plenty of fresh water and call your veterinarian if there are any concerns or questions. Be sure to get rid of any daphne or other poisonous plants on your property to prevent this from happening again.
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