What is Eastern Star Poisoning?
The eastern star is part of a large genus called dianthus, which has over 300 species including wild carnations. The eastern star is sometimes known as the red dwarf because it is a relatively short (about eight inches) plant that is commonly used for ground cover because it spreads so well and is resistant to many animals because of the saponins in their foliage. If your dog eats some of these plants, it probably will not be a large enough amount to cause too many issues because of the instant irritation and foaming sensation that causes nausea.
There are many plants that are referred to as the eastern star, but the one we are referring to is the dianthus, which is part of the Caryophyllaceae family. Some may know it as the red dwarf eastern star dianthus, but they are the same thing. This plant is a beautiful blue-green perennial with red, frilly flowers and a dark burgundy center. The eastern star contains saponins, which are chemical that have a natural foaming property and can produce gastrointestinal irritation and damage to red blood cells. If you think your dog ate part of this plant, it is best to call your veterinarian or go to a veterinary hospital or clinic. Even if you have not seen any symptoms, damage can be done that may not be evident until hours later.
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Symptoms of Eastern Star Poisoning in Dogs
The signs of eastern star poisoning may vary from dog to dog and depends on the amount eaten and the overall health of your dog. Some dogs are more sensitive to the properties of the eastern star (saponins), but this is not confined to a certain breed, age, or sex. The most common symptoms reported in dogs are:
- Vomiting (sometimes tinged with blood)
- Appetite loss
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Seizures if your dog eats a large amount of eastern star plants
The eastern star (dianthus eastern star) is of the Caryophyllaceae family and goes by several different names:
- Wild carnation
- Sweet William
- Red dwarf
Causes of Eastern Star Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of eastern star toxicity is the saponins that are present in the entire plant. The foaming properties irritate your dog’s digestive system and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. These saponins are also able to destroy the red blood cells of the body, which can produce anemia in severe cases.
Diagnosis of Eastern Star Poisoning in Dogs
To diagnose eastern star poisoning, your veterinarian will rely on your information and the symptoms your dog is showing. Bringing a sample of the plant or a photograph could make diagnosis easier. It is helpful if you have your pet’s health and shot records, but if not, you can just tell the veterinarian the important information, such as any illnesses or injuries your dog has had recently. If your dog is on any medication or is allergic to anything, the veterinarian will need to know this as well. A physical examination of your pet will be done, which usually includes checking the condition of your dog’s coat, skin, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. The veterinarian will also check your dog’s weight, body temperature, reflexes, heart rate, blood pressure, and breath sounds.
Your veterinarian will want to run some blood tests to eliminate other illnesses or disease such as a complete blood count (CBC), comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), liver panel, and renal panel to check the bilirubin, proteins, phosphatase, and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). A urinalysis and fecal exam may be done as well.
The veterinarian may suggest abdominal radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasound to determine if there are any plant particles or blockages to deal with. If these tests are inconclusive, CT scans and an MRI may be performed to get a better look.
Treatment of Eastern Star Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment for poisoning in dogs is generally the same in most cases. The veterinarian will decide what treatment is needed from the test results, but the usual plan is elimination (vomiting), fluids, medications, and maybe hospitalization for observation in severe cases. However, that is rare in eastern star poisonings.
Elimination of Toxins
Vomiting is the best way to eliminate the poisons from your dog’s system so the veterinarian will give ipecac or a peroxide solution to induce vomiting. To absorb leftover toxins, activated charcoal will be given orally and a gastric lavage will take care of the rest.
Intravenous (IV) fluids will be given to your dog to flush the toxins through the kidneys and prevent dehydration.
Antiemetic medication may be given if your dog has not stopped vomiting. An antacid and stomach protectant are also helpful if your pet’s symptoms are not subsiding. Electrolytes can be added to the IV if your dog is dehydrated.
Hospitalization and Observation
For eastern star poisoning, hospitalization is rarely necessary unless your dog has an underlying disease or illness that needs to be addressed.
Recovery of Eastern Star Poisoning in Dogs
Your dog will be alright within a few hours in most cases. In fact, many dogs are fine once the toxin is out of their system. The veterinarian will most likely put your dog on a bland diet that is easy to digest for a few days. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water for your pet, and remove the eastern star plant from your home or put it where your pet cannot access it.