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What is English Ivy Poisoning?

Hedera Helix, more commonly known as English ivy, contains both a naturally occurring steroid known as sapogenin as well as polyacetylene compounds. Both of these naturally occurring chemicals can be irritating to the skin and mucus membranes if chewed or swallowed. All parts of the ivy plant contain the toxins, but they are most concentrated in the leaves. Although intoxication from English ivy is generally not life threatening, it is still best to contact your veterinarian or a pet poison hotline as soon as possible.

English ivy, especially the leaves, can cause gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, and diarrhea when eaten, and the sap can induce a contact rash when exposed to the skin.

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English Ivy Poisoning Average Cost

From 359 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of English Ivy Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms caused by ingesting English ivy are generally mild. The toxin is found throughout the plant but is most concentrated in the leaves. Repeated exposure to the sap of the plant can cause a temporary allergic dermatitis. 

Symptoms of ingestion

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms of dermal reaction

  • Blistering
  • Redness
  • Swelling 

Types

Members of the Hedera genus have distinct juvenile and adult life stages. The juvenile stage of growth is characterized by lobed leaves and dense patches of leaves at the ground level, as well as swift growth. Once the plant reaches adulthood the plant develops woody vines and the leaves lighten in color and lose their lobed appearance. It is in this phase that small nectar-producing flowers develop on secondary branches. These flowers later mature into small purple-black or yellow-orange berries.

English ivy goes by several alternative names such as:

  • Branching ivy
  • California ivy
  • Glacier ivy
  • Irish ivy
  • Needlepoint ivy
  • Sweetheart ivy
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Causes of English Ivy Poisoning in Dogs

The toxic elements found in English ivy are a type of naturally occurring steroid known as sapogenin combined with polyacetylene compounds. These compounds are found throughout the plant and are the most concentrated within the leaves themselves. They are the cause of both the gastrointestinal distress of the patient and the dermal reaction from the sap. Skin reactions to the sap are generally short-lived, but they tend to intensify and last longer with repeated exposures.

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Diagnosis of English Ivy Poisoning in Dogs

If consumption of the ivy was witnessed, then identification of the plant may be all that is required to diagnose the origin of your pet’s discomfort. If this is the case, you may also want to take a sample of the plant in case complications arise. If the consumption of the plant was not witnessed your veterinarian may recommend a visit to the office based on the symptoms presented. Your veterinarian will ask you about any opportunistic eating you suspect to have occurred as well as questions regarding any prescriptions or supplements that your dog may be taking. This information is used to rule out any drug interactions or other toxins, such as pesticides that may have been used on the plant. A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis will likely be requested in order to reveal any imbalances, toxins, or underlying diseases. Any blemishes of the skin or dermatitis from contact with the sap will also be investigated at this time. If your dog has ingested sufficient quantities of the plant material to cause vomiting to occur, then the vomit will also be examined and tested for possible toxins. Plant material found in the vomit may help confirm the diagnosis.

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Treatment of English Ivy Poisoning in Dogs

The initial treatment for the irritation caused by the sap of the English ivy plant is to rinse the mouth thoroughly with clear, cool water. This is to remove as much of the compounds from the exposed skin as possible. Any skin that was exposed to the sap should also be cleansed as the sap is known to cause allergic dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Offering your dog an ice cube to eat may also help reduce the swelling and pain in the mouth. English ivy has a generally unpleasant taste so it is rare for canines to ingest large amounts of the plant. In many cases, rinsing the mouth area thoroughly may be all the treatment that is required. If the reaction to the toxin is more severe your veterinarian may recommend an appropriate antihistamine or anti-inflammatory pain reliever for your canine. When excessive vomiting or diarrhea occur your veterinarian is likely to recommend bringing your pet into their office for supportive treatment. IV fluid treatment will be administered at the veterinarian’s office to prevent dehydration and if an antihistamine was not previously dispensed it may be administered at this time as an intramuscular injection. Medications such as Imodium or Pepcid AC may also be recommended for their gastroprotective properties.

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Recovery of English Ivy Poisoning in Dogs

Most pets recover completely within a few hours to a few days, depending on the amount of intoxication. Larger than normal doses or a sensitivity to the chemical in the ivy plant may cause excessive nausea and vomiting. Initially, therapy for dogs showing gastric distress involves withholding food until vomiting has ceased for at least 12 hours, and this may be what your veterinarian ultimately recommends. This technique is used to provide the dog’s stomach muscles time to recover from repeated vomiting. Water and crushed ice should be offered frequently during this time, but only in small amounts to prevent the symptoms from reoccurring. After the initial withholding period only soft, bland foods should be offered for approximately 24 hours. The ideal recovery diet includes an easily-digestible carbohydrate combined with a mild and unseasoned protein source.

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English Ivy Poisoning Average Cost

From 359 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$400

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English Ivy Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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poppy

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cross Jack russell pug

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sick And Diarrhoea
Sick

my dog got a branch off a recently cut down ivy stick size she then stripped it down chewed the bark off it for a while she's now been sick and hot diarrhoea and just looks sorry for herself will this pass or do I need to take her to the vets? thank you

Sept. 15, 2018

poppy's Owner

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Luna

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Goldendoodle

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8 Weeks

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Fair severity

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11 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

N/A

We just brought home an 8 week old golden doodle. As with most puppies, she's chewing on everything, including plants outside. So I started researching toxic plants. I'm concerned because we have a LOT of english ivy outside. Right now we are watching her every move but I hope soon to be able to leave her in the back yard unattended at times. Do I need to do a massive removable of the ivy? She is not our first dog but she is our first puppy!

Aug. 20, 2018

Luna's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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11 Recommendations

It would probably be best to block access to the ivy if Luna is going to be left in the yard unattended, yes. If she does decide to chew on it, it can cause GI disease and contact irritation.

Aug. 20, 2018

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English Ivy Poisoning Average Cost

From 359 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$400

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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