What is Ferns Poisoning?
For over 300 million years, ferns have been a part of our earth. There are thousands of different species of ferns, and they grow in various habitats all over the world. Ferns of many types are very popular house plants, both indoor and outdoor. Many people enjoy the beauty of ferns and the fact that they are very easy to maintain.
Ferns poisoning in dogs occurs when dogs ingest specific types of ferns; not all ferns are toxic to dogs. The emerald fern is toxic to dogs and can cause a myriad of symptoms. It contains small berries that are toxic to dogs, in addition to the leaves. This type of fern may be hard to distinguish against other ferns, as many of these plants have several similarities in appearance.
Ferns poisoning in dogs occurs when dogs ingest specific types of ferns, one of them being the Emerald fern. Emerald ferns contain sapogenins, which is a steroid that is toxic to dogs.
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Symptoms of Ferns Poisoning in Dogs
When dogs consume emerald ferns, mild to moderate symptoms may occur. Typically, symptoms may only last a few days; however, it is still important to take your dog to the veterinarian as a precaution. Symptoms caused by the ingestion of the emerald fern include:
- Abdominal pain
- Skin irritation
There are several alternate names of these toxic ferns. Toxic ferns within the species of the emerald fern that have different names include:
- Asparagus fern
- Lace fern
- Sprengeri fern
- Plumosa fern
- Racemose asparagus
- Emerald feather
Causes of Ferns Poisoning in Dogs
Causes of illness from ingesting the emerald fern are caused by the dog eating the leaves and berries of the plant. Specific causes of poisoning include:
- Cytotoxic activity of saponins
- These compounds destroy red blood cells
- Causes changes within the negatively charged cell surface carbohydrates
Diagnosis of Ferns Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has consumed in Emerald fern, it is important to take him to the vet immediately. Taking a part of the plant with you to the veterinarian may be very helpful in confirming the type of fern he has eaten. If your dog is showing symptoms, and you are unaware that he ingested the fern, the veterinarian will need to rely on the dog’s clinical signs.
A complete physical examination will be performed, complete with bloodwork, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. The physician will also look at the dog’s skin and mouth to see if any irritation has occurred. These basic tests reveal a great deal to the veterinarian; they allow the veterinarian to see any imbalances and to check how the organs are functioning.
If your dog has vomited from an upset stomach due to the ingestion of the fern, the veterinarian may want to test the contents of the vomit to check for the presence of any toxins, namely sapogenins (saponins). In addition to checking the contents of the stomach, which may also be accomplished by emesis, the veterinarian may also check the dog stool for any signs of the plant.
Treatment of Ferns Poisoning in Dogs
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed plant toxicity from the fern, he will determine the treatment options that are necessary. Treatment may include:
If your dog has come into contact with the sapogenins in his mouth or skin, the veterinarian will rinse his mouth very thoroughly and wash any exposed skin.
If your dog has not vomited on his own, the veterinarian may induce vomiting to help clear the contents of his stomach. Immediately following emesis, the veterinarian may administer activated charcoal to help prevent the toxins from being absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract.
IV fluids may be given to prevent the dog from dehydration and to help restore any imbalances in the dog’s system. If your dog is having severe allergic reaction, internally or externally, an antihistamine may be administered within the IV fluids.
Recovery of Ferns Poisoning in Dogs
The effects of Emerald fern poisoning, with proper treatment, will diminish within 1 to 12 hours. If your dog consumed a large amount of emerald fern, it may take longer. Either way, the veterinarian may choose to keep him until she sees progress in his recovery.
When you are able to take your dog home, the veterinarian may recommend a diet change, at least temporarily, to soothe his stomach if he has had vomiting or diarrhea. A bland diet may be recommended along with fresh water in small amounts. The veterinarian will give you specific instructions on what your dog should eat after this type of poisoning. Usually the diet consists of gentle and soft carbohydrates that are easy to digest, along with an easily digestible source of protein, namely chicken.
It is important to monitor your dog within the home to be sure he is effectively recovering. If you see any new symptoms or have any questions about the instructions your veterinarian has given you in terms of his care, please call your physician.
Ferns Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
What if my dog has been ingesting fern for a period of several weeks but I didn't know it was a toxic plant. I'd see her come in a vomit up green and couldn't understand where she was finding it. It was behind my AC unit. What are the signs of long term build up in her system? Could it throw her electrolytes out of balance? Dehydrate her. She's diabetic, could it mess with her insulin levels?
There are many different types of fern, all have varying degrees of toxicity to dogs; the best thing to do is to induce further vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, ensure that Marilyn receives plenty of fluids, clean any sap or debris from in and around her mouth and remove or fence off the fern so that she doesn’t return to eat more. If this has been happening for a few weeks, it seems that the fern is very low in toxicity; also the fern shouldn’t cause a problem with her diabetes but the vomiting may have caused her to lose some fluids. If you have any concerns, visit your Veterinarian; otherwise keep an eye on her. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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