What is Dieffenbachia Poisoning ?
The dieffenbachia may grow to over six feet tall and has large variegated leaves that can range in color from yellow to green. They can sometimes flower, but most do not produce any berries or fruits. Some of the other common names of dieffenbachia are dumbcane, leopard lily, and mother-in-law’s tongue. Dieffenbachia come in many varieties and colors, so it may not be obvious if the plant growing in your yard or park is poisonous or not. It is best to keep an eye on your dog while he is outside and get rid of any plants in your yard that you suspect may be poisonous. This is especially important if your pet is known to be the kind of dog that chews on anything and everything. There are toxic enzymes that can be painful and even fatal if your dog has an allergic reaction. If you suspect that your dog may have eaten a dieffenbachia, take him to the veterinarian or animal hospital right away.
Dieffenbachia plants are dangerous to dogs because of their insoluble oxalate crystals and acid. The crystals are actually microscopic needle-like enzymes that are formed in the stem and leaves of the dieffenbachia as a deterrent to pests. Chewing on the dieffenbachia plant causes the crystals to be released and they embed themselves into your dog’s mouth, tongue, and throat. The rest of the plant is also dangerous due to the acids and other enzymes not yet identified. Dieffenbachia are popular houseplants but are also often found outdoors as shrubs or ornamental bushes.
The dieffenbachia plant can cause stomach distress, such as vomiting and diarrhea, or blistering and swelling of the mouth due to the calcium oxalate needles and oxalic acid. These are irritating to the mucus membranes and can cause an allergic reaction in some dogs that can possibly be fatal if not treated right away. Ocular (eye) exposure is rare, but can be incredibly painful, so you will need to bring your dog to the veterinarian for treatment. Topical (skin) exposure can cause symptoms as well, but this can be treated at home by washing with soap and water.
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Symptoms of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of dieffenbachia poisoning or exposure vary depending on which area was exposed:
- Allergic reaction
- Gasping for breath
- Swelling of the lips or face
- Difficulty eating and drinking
- Pawing at the face and mouth
Ocular (Eye) Exposure
- Head rubbing
- Itching, redness, and swelling
- Pawing at eyes and face
Topical (Skin) Exposure
- Inflammation of the affected areas
- Redness and itching
- Oral poisoning occurs if your dog ingests some of a dieffenbachia plant
- Ocular exposure (rare) can occur if your dog’s eye is exposed to the dieffenbachia plant
- Topical exposure is caused by skin exposure to the dieffenbachia plant
Causes of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Dogs
Accidental exposure to dieffenbachia by someone who has handled the plant
Ingestion or exposure of any part of the dieffenbachia plant, including:
Diagnosis of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Dogs
The tests for dieffenbachia poisoning is difficult, so be sure to bring in a part of the plant if you can. The hardest part of diagnosing your dog is ruling out other illnesses or conditions and the more information you can give the veterinarian the better off your dog will be. Your dog’s medical history is important, such as recent injury or illnesses, vaccination records, and abnormal behavior. Faster diagnosis means sooner treatment, which leads to a better outcome for everyone. The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination, including oral and eye examination, blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, pulse oximetry, weight, and reflexes.
Tests that need to be done include a urinalysis, complete blood count (CBC), blood gases, liver enzymes, chemistry panel, and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). The veterinarian will also want to get some images of your dog’s abdominal area with x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds if needed. If your dog has symptoms of ocular exposure, the veterinarian will do a fluorescein eye examination. This procedure is done by staining the eye with ocular dye and looking at it under a slit lamp.
Treatment of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Dogs
For eye exposure, the eye will be irrigated with saline solution and treated with an optical antibiotic and pain/itch reliever. Skin exposure can be treated at home by washing the area with warm, soapy water and possibly treating it with cortisone cream suggested by your veterinarian. Oral poisoning will be treated by using cool saline and ice chips to wash away the remaining parts of the plant, if any, and application of an oral analgesic for pain. The veterinarian will want to watch your dog for about 30 to 90 minutes to be sure there is no allergic reaction or throat swelling.
Recovery of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Dogs
Though the toxic effects of dieffenbachia can be serious, the prognosis can be good with prompt veterinary care. Once your dog is allowed to return home, keep him on cage rest and bland food for 24 to 48 hours, or whatever timeframe your veterinarian suggests. Be sure to get rid of any remaining plants in your home or dieffenbachia bushes on your property so this does not happen again.
Dieffenbachia Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I believe my dog ate a leaf of definbachia, she is being watched by my neighbor currently as I am out of town. What should I have my neighbor to do for her. She is a Boston terrier and in very good health.
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My dog , a Labrador 5 year old ingested yesterday at day time leaves of Dieffenbachia leaves, vomited 3 times contains of unabsorbed leafes, then in evening ate half of his meal and vomited one more whole leaf of the plant. Today he is drooling a lot, ate very litle and not drinking properly, very small amount. Also not barking at all . No signs of external swelling or a rash.
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