What is Easter Rose Poisoning?
The Easter rose is also called by many other names, including the Christmas rose because it usually blooms from December until April. This is an evergreen type of helleborus that produces large flowers during the holidays, making it a very popular houseplant. The beautiful flowers of this plant can brighten up your home during the holiday season, but can also be dangerous if your pet decides it looks good enough to eat, literally.
Easter rose poisoning is a serious condition caused by the ingestion of any part of these winter blooming beauties. The Easter rose has several toxic principles such as bufadienolides, cardenolides, helleborein, helleborin, hellebrin, and ranoculins throughout the entire plant, including the roots. These toxins are glycosides that can produce various side effects including heart irregularities, kidney problems, and severe gastrointestinal upset. The effect on your dog depends on the amount eaten, but in some animals it can be fatal. The saponins in the Easter rose are also toxic and can produce skin irritation from exposure.
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Symptoms of Easter Rose Poisoning in Dogs
While the severity of the symptoms are varied depending on the amount eaten, the effects are generally the same. These can be grouped into several biological systems which are cardiac, gastrointestinal, respiratory, central nervous system, and topical.
- Irregular heart rate
- Slow pulse
Central Nervous System
- Pain in the abdomen
- Upset stomach or diarrhea
- Labored breathing
- Respiratory collapse
- Respiratory failure
- Excessive thirst
- Shortness of breath
The scientific name of the Easter rose is Helleborus niger from the Ranunculaceae family. There are several common names this plant is known by besides Easter rose.
- Candy love
- Christmas cactus
- Christmas rose
- Lenten rose
Causes of Easter Rose Poisoning in Dogs
The toxins in the Easter rose include the folowing glycosides:
- Bufadienolides increase contractions of the heart
- Cardenolides cause heart and kidney irregularities
- Helleborein causes an increase of sodium and calcium, affecting the heart and kidneys
- Helleborin causes an increase of sodium and calcium, also affecting the heart and kidneys
- Hellebrin causes an increase of sodium and calcium, which also affects the heart and kidneys
- Ranoculins causes heart and kidney irregularities as well as intestinal and topical irritation
Diagnosis of Easter Rose Poisoning in Dogs
The ingestion of any part of an Easter rose plant can be dangerous, so it is essential that your dog see a veterinary professional right away. It is helpful if you bring a part of the plant or a photograph with you to show the veterinarian. Provide your pet’s medical reports, shot records, and details about the incident to help the veterinarian make the right diagnosis. Your dog’s physical condition will be evaluated by the veterinarian and vital statistics will be recorded. She will also examine your dog’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth, skin, and coat while noting any irregularities. A urine and stool sample will be taken for microscopic evaluation, blood will be drawn for chemical and serum analysis, and images may be done to get a look at what is going on inside. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is useful in monitoring your pet’s heart function and an echocardiography (ECHO) may be helpful as well.
Treatment of Easter Rose Poisoning in Dogs
Treating your dog for Easter rose poisoning will be based on the test results and symptoms. Since all pets have different reactions to the toxins in the Easter rose, the methods of treatment will vary. However, the most common treatments for this type of toxicity are:
To empty your dog’s stomach, a medication such as apomorphine or hydrogen peroxide will be administered. The veterinarian may be able to use this to help the diagnosis by searching for parts of the plant in your dog’s vomit.
Once your dog has vomited, an activated charcoal will be administered to absorb whatever toxins are left in your pet’s system. This will prevent any poisonous substances in the body from being absorbed by the stomach or intestines.
If the veterinarian has not already started your dog on intravenous (IV) fluids, it will be done at this time to keep your dog hydrated and flush the toxins through the body and kidneys. This prevents dehydration and aids the veterinary staff in administering electrolytes or medications as needed.
Atropine may be administered to even out your dog’s heart rate, antiemesis medication may be given if your dog is still vomiting after the charcoal has been introduced, and antibiotics are added through the IV to help prevent infection. A topical cortisone cream or ointment will be used to stop the itching and calm the inflammation of the skin.
Recovery of Easter Rose Poisoning in Dogs
If treatment was obtained right away, your dog’s prognosis is good as long as there was no lasting damage to the heart or kidneys. A short hospital stay may be necessary to monitor your dog’s condition and provide supportive care as needed. It is best to remove the Easter rose from your home to be sure this does not happen again.