What is Ficus Poisoning?
Ficus plants have the unique characteristic of rubbery, glossy leaves and grow in a variety of shapes and sizes. Ficus plants are a common houseplant, as they are easy to maintain. Due to the nature of their leaves, this plant is also called a rubber plant or rubber tree, and the genus Ficus has a variety of related plants and trees. In fact, the genus has approximately 850 species of various trees, vines, and plants.
The ficus plants, or trees, originate in India, Malaysia, and Southeast Asia, may also be referred to as figs. Since their native environments are tropical climates, Ficus plants do very well in warm temperatures. On the contrary, even though the ficus does well in warm areas, it does not survive in cold temperatures. Although the ficus are popular household plants, they can be toxic to dogs. The leaves of the ficus contain a sap that can be very irritating to dogs, either on the skin or when ingested.
Ficus poisoning in dogs can happen to dogs that eat any part of the ficus plant. The sap contains specific enzymes that can cause irritation to dogs.
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Symptoms of Ficus Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog eats any part of the Ficus plant, he may exhibit the following symptoms. If he shows any of the following symptoms, it is important to take him to the veterinarian. Symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Pawing at the face
- Rubbing his face on the floor
- Overall distress
- Mouth pain
- Abdominal pain
Ficus plants have a variety of names that they may be referred to. Having knowledge of the alternative names for the plant is very important for future reference, especially if you have several different types of plants in the home. Alternate names for the ficus plant are:
- Weeping fig
- Fig tree
- Rubber plant
- Indian rubber plant
- Climbing fig
- Rubber tree
Causes of Ficus Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of ficus poisoning in dogs is the ingestion of the leaves or the stems of the plant. The mechanism of action of the sap can make the dog ill. Ficus toxicity is caused by:
- Sap which contains ficin, the proteolytic enzyme
- Sap which contains ficusin, the phototoxic psoralen
- Both enzymes causing dermatitis and blistering on the skin
- Both enzymes causing gastrointestinal distress
Diagnosis of Ficus Poisoning in Dogs
Although serious ficus poisoning in dogs is uncommon, it is still important to take your companion to the veterinarian just to be sure and to understand the level of toxicity in your dog. Once the dog is at the veterinarian, the physician will ask you questions pertaining to the plant in which he ingested. If you suspect or know that he has consumed a ficus plant, this will be very useful to the veterinarian in making a diagnosis.
By looking at the dog’s clinical signs, and with your suspicion that he has ingested this poisonous plant, the veterinarian will begin to assess him. Even though a definitive diagnosis can be challenging if it is not certain your pet ingested ficus, the veterinarian will collect enough information to determine a diagnosis and treatment.
The medical professional will take a complete blood count, urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile to take a closer look at the organ function and the status of the dog’s system. If the dog has severe diarrhea or is vomiting, the contents may also be tested to check for the toxic enzymes from the plant.
Treatment of Ficus Poisoning in Dogs
Depending on how much the dog ingested, treatment will vary. It is very rare that ficus is life-threatening to dogs. Usually basic treatment methods will help the dog recover quickly. Treatment methods include:
The veterinarian may choose to induce vomiting in your dog if he has not already done so. This will allow the veterinarian to test the contents and to help the dog rid his system of the toxins. Immediately following emesis, the veterinarian will administer activated charcoal to aid in the absorption of the enzymes from the sap and to prevent it from going any further than the stomach area.
IV fluids will help the dog remain hydrated. This is very important, especially if he has been vomiting or suffering from severe diarrhea from the toxic enzymes. IV fluids will restore the dog’s levels of hydration and encourage urination.
If the sap came into contact with the dog’s skin, he may require ointment or a special bath to help with the dermatitis. He may also require treatment on his lips if he is suffering from any blisters from the irritating sap of the plant.
Recovery of Ficus Poisoning in Dogs
Usually dogs that become poisoned by the ficus plant recover very well. The veterinarian will want to keep him just to be sure he is progressing before she makes a decision to send him home. She will also want to see him for follow-up examinations to check his system to be sure he is healing.
When you take your dog home, it will be important to keep a watchful eye to be sure he is not developing any new symptoms or changes in behavior. Your veterinarian will give you directions on how to care for your dog at home, if needed. In order to prevent poisoning from happening, it is important to check the plants within the home and outside of the home for levels of toxicity. If you are unsure if your client is toxic, you can contact your veterinarian or your local ASPCA.
Ficus Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My new puppy (13 weeks old) ate a ficus leaf from our indoor tree about half an hour ago. he seems fine so far, has been playing and happy. He's now asleep. Should I do anything? Or just watch out for symptoms?
What about the berries from a ficus tree? Our 4 month old Dalmatian I headed several before we could stop him
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