What is English Yew Poisoning?
The English yew, with the scientific name of Taxus baccata, is a lighter shaded evergreen shrub of the yew family and is distributed throughout Asia and Europe. This tree, or shrub, can grow up to 100 feet and is adorned with branches that spread out and flowing branches that droop down. This conifer is very hardy and can survive in many climates. Many people choose to keep their English yew shrub as an ornamental hedge by keeping them trimmed back.
This plant is also used for decorative purposes, namely to mix with other evergreens and pines for Christmas wreaths or other Christmas decor. The lighter green shade blends perfectly with the rich darker shades of green and other evergreen trees. The English yew has a very long lifespan and comes in many different varieties and names as well.
All parts of this plant are highly toxic and can lead to death if ingested without immediate treatment. Actually, this tree has a nickname, the “Tree of Death.” It is a highly toxic plant to many livestock and animals, including dogs. Its longtime history even includes using the alkaloids of this plant to aid in suicide or made into a chemical weapon of toxicity during ancient hunting days and warfare.
English yew poisoning in dogs is a result of dogs ingesting all or part of the English yew plant. This plant contains taxines, which are highly poisonous to dogs and other small animals.
Symptoms of English Yew Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has ingested the English yew, the symptoms will begin immediately. The symptoms of English yew poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulty breathing
There are many different types of yews and all of them are highly poisonous. The yew is called many different names, and this is important to know, especially if you have many plants around your property which your dog is exposed to. Types include:
- Yew plum pine
- Fern pine
- Yew pine
- Japanese yew
- Southern yew
- Tree of death
- English yew
- Evergreen taxine
- Buddhist pine
Causes of English Yew Poisoning in Dogs
The causes of English yew poisoning are from the dog ingesting all or part of this plant. The needles, bark, and cones of this plant are all highly toxic to dogs. Specific causes of toxicity include:
- English Yew contains taxines
- Taxines are the active and poisonous mechanisms of this plant
- Affect cardiac myocytes and lead to cardiac arrest
- The major threat is dehydration and heart failure
Diagnosis of English Yew Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has eaten any part of the English yew, it is necessary to get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Immediate treatment will need to be conducted in order for him to survive. The veterinarian may choose to begin intravenous fluids to stop the dehydration and remove the toxins from his body more rapidly. The veterinarian may also perform emesis in order to dispel any toxins from his stomach followed by activated charcoal to further absorb the toxins and prevent them from entering into the bloodstream.
The veterinarian may choose to perform specific tests such as blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile; however, he may be doing so while he is performing treatment. The medical professional will perform an electrocardiogram to check your dog’s heart function and will need to monitor his heart throughout the diagnosis and treatment process.
It will be very important to know your dog’s history and how much of the yew that he possibly consumed. The physical examination your veterinarian will perform will be his body temperature, blood pressure, respiratory system analysis, fecal examination, glucose level, blood gas panel, and a blood urea nitrogen test.
The veterinarian may also perform several radiographs, such as of the chest area and abdominal area. He may also administer oxygen therapy to aid in your dog’s breathing. You may find that your veterinarian is working very rapidly and may need a team of professionals to assist him. An ultrasound may also be performed.
Treatment of English Yew Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment of English yew poisoning will begin immediately in order for your dog to survive. Treatment methods may include:
Your veterinarian may perform emesis in order for your companion to vomit. This will be done by giving your dog a solution to help him vomit on his own, and then will be followed up by a dosage of activated charcoal to help soak up the leftover toxins.
IV fluids will be given to your dog to prevent dehydration and to restore any lost electrolytes. IV fluids also encourage effective urination and proper kidney function.
Your veterinarian may choose to perform gastric lavage. Your dog will need to be put under anesthesia for this process. A tube will be inserted into his abdominal area and stomach so the contents of the stomach can be flushed out with a saline solution. This will help remove any plant debris that may be left over after emesis.
More than likely, your dog will need to be hospitalized due to English yew poisoning. Your dog will be monitored at all times by the veterinarian or a team of veterinarians. They will monitor his heart, respiratory system, abdominal functions, and other organ functions to be sure he is responding to treatment. Although treatment is symptomatic, it is important to understand that your veterinarian is trained to know what to look for in terms of symptoms, and precisely what to do to save your dog.
Recovery of English Yew Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has survived English yew poisoning, he may need to be hospitalized for quite some time. The veterinarian will know when he is ready to come home. Once you bring your dog home, your veterinarian will have instructions for his aftercare and it will be very important to follow them.
Your medical professional may recommend a very bland diet for your dog for quite some time as he is healing. He may also recommend a prescription diet; this depends on the condition of your dog. Avoiding rough play will be crucial as your dog needs to rest as his body heals.
Your physician will let you know of any symptoms that you need to watch for, and if you see any new symptoms arise it will be important to contact your veterinarian with questions or concerns.
For future prevention, do not let your dog roam outside without being monitored, especially if you have the English yew plant on your property. If possible, you may want to have it removed. Also, you may choose to check for other toxic plants within your home or on your property and have them removed as well. If you are unsure of which plans are toxic, you can always ask your local Humane Society or ASPCA (or your veterinarian) and they will let you know.