What is Devil's Ivy Poisoning?
Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum pinnatum) is a green climbing plant that may also be called pothos, golden pothos, marble queen, taro vine, and ivy arum. Both the stem and the leaves contain insoluble calcium oxalates, which are toxic to dogs. In fact, if a large amount of calcium oxalates are consumed, they can be absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream and be deposited into the kidneys, heart, liver, or anywhere else the bloodstream takes it. The glycosides and steroidal saponins irritate the tissues and cause swelling as well.
Devil’s ivy, more commonly known as golden pothos, is part of the Araceae family. Similar to other toxic plants, devil’s ivy contains insoluble calcium oxalates, which are tiny crystals that act as microscopic needles when crushed. This causes severe pain, swelling, drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. In severe cases, dogs have been known to asphyxiate (choke) on the leaves of this plant, which can be fatal. Both the stems (vines) and leaves are poisonous to dogs, and usually cause immediate symptoms, which can deter most dogs from eating a lethal amount. However, there are always those dogs that will eat anything, so it is important to not have a devil’s ivy plant anywhere that your dog is able to go.
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Symptoms of Devil's Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The first thing you may notice if your dog has eaten devil’s ivy is pawing at his mouth and face, whining, foaming, vomiting, and coughing. The effects may also make it hard for your dog to breathe, so it is essential that you get your dog to the veterinarian or animal clinic right away. Some of the other commonly reported signs are:
- Airway obstruction
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive drooling
- Head rubbing
- Intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue, and lips
- Irregular heartbeat
- Lack of appetite
- Oral irritation and pain
- Pawing/rubbing the face or mouth
- Swelling of the lips or tongue
Causes of Devil's Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of devil’s ivy poisoning is the ingestion of any part of the plant due to the toxic chemicals which are deposited into the organs. Intense irritation of tissues, blockage of the airway, and heart irregularities are caused by the toxins.
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium oxalate raphides
Diagnosis of Devil's Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
Bring a part of the plant with you to show the veterinarian for a quicker and easier diagnosis. The less time it takes to determine the kind of plant your dog ate, the faster he can get treatment. The veterinarian will also need all the information about what part of the plant and how much your dog ate. The information your veterinarian will need to know about your dog's age, breed, medical history, vaccination records, overall health, last illness or injury, and unusual behavior. A complete physical examination will be done by the veterinarian, which will include your dog’s body temperature, weight, reflexes, blood pressure, breath sounds, physical appearance, respirations, blood oxygen level (pulse oximetry), heart rate, and inspection of the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.
Laboratory tests that will be done are electrolyte levels, complete blood count (CBC), blood gases, biochemistry profile, and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels. Many of the BUN levels will be increased with devil’s ivy poisoning including potassium, calcium, creatinine, and proteins. A urinalysis may show a decrease in specific gravity, increased lipase, amylase, and glucose. Your veterinarian may also decide to do an endoscopy to view the inside of your dog’s esophagus and upper airway. This is done using an endoscope, which is a long, thin, flexible tube that has a camera on the end. If there are any pieces of the ivy in your dog’s throat or airway, the veterinarian will be able to see it and remove it using the endoscope. Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) will need to be performed to give your veterinarian a view of your dog’s stomach and intestinal tract in order to see what damage has been done. If necessary, they may have to perform a CT scan or MRI to get a more detailed view.
Treatment of Devil's Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
Decontamination will be done by causing your dog to vomit (with medication), if necessary. In addition, a charcoal lavage can be used to wash leftover toxins from the digestive system and stomach. The activated charcoal absorbs the toxins so that they cannot do any more damage to your dog’s system. Fluid therapy by IV will probably have already been started if your dog has been vomiting or has diarrhea, and that will be continued for a few hours or overnight, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Recovery of Devil's Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
As long as your dog received treatment within the first 24 hours after consumption, the prognosis is very good since a lethal amount is not usually consumed due to the immediate oral pain it causes. The veterinarian may keep your dog overnight for observation if the symptoms are severe, but that is usually not necessary. Be sure to remove the plant from your home or property so this will not happen again and call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.