What is Fig Poisoning?
Fig plants have the unique characteristic of rubbery, glossy leaves and grow in a variety of shapes and sizes. These 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 Fig has a variety of related plants and trees. In fact, the genus has approximately 850 species of various trees, vines, and plants.
The fig plants, or trees, originate in India, Malaysia, and Southeast Asia. Since their native environments are tropical climates, fig plants do very well in warm temperatures. On the contrary, even though the fig does well in warm areas, it does not survive in cold temperatures. Although the fig plants are popular household plants, they can be toxic to dogs. The leaves of the fig contain a sap that can be very irritating to dogs, either on the skin or when ingested. Fig poisoning in dogs can happen to dogs that eat any part of this well-known plant.
It is important to avoid having any fig plants within the home if you have dogs or other small animals. Many dogs, especially puppies, like to explore and chew on unfamiliar items. This can lead to a great deal of sickness and a hospital stay; however, it can be avoided by being proactive about the plants within your home.
Fig poisoning in dogs is a result of dogs ingesting the fig, or ficus, plant. The fig plant contains a toxic, sap-like substance known as ficin, which is toxic when consumed or when it comes into contact with the skin, eyes, or mouth of dogs.
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Symptoms of Fig Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog consumes a fig plant, he may suffer from these symptoms. If he exhibits any of the following symptoms, even though they may be mild, it is important to take him to a veterinarian. Symptoms include:
- Pawing at the face
- Rubbing his face in distress
- Abdominal pain
- Irritated skin
- Mouth pain
- Watery eyes
The fig plant is known by many as the ficus plant. Other names in which people refer to this toxic plant include:
- Weeping fig
- Rubber tree
- Rubber plant
- Climbing fig
- Indian rubber plant
Causes of Fig Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of fig toxicity in dogs is the eating of the leaves or the stems of the plant. Fig poisoning is caused by:
- The toxic sap which contains ficin
- Ficin is a phototoxic psoralen
- Ficin causes inflammation and dermatitis
- Ficin causes blistering of the skin
- Phototoxic psoralen causes gastrointestinal distress when swallowed
Diagnosis of Fig Poisoning in Dogs
Although severe fig poisoning in dogs is infrequent, it is still imperative to take your dog to receive medical attention. Taking him to the veterinarian will allow you to understand the level of toxicity in your dog. Once the dog is at the veterinarian’s office, the physician will ask a variety of questions pertaining to the plant in which he ingested.
If possible, take a part of the plant with you, especially if you suspect or know that he has consumed this item. This will aid the veterinarian in making a diagnosis, along with the assessment of his symptoms. The veterinarian will also take a blood test, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile to examine your dog’s organ function. This will help him decide on the proper mode of treatment.
If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, the veterinarian may also choose to test these substances to check for any plant material and toxins. She may also proceed in giving him IV fluids to keep him from dehydrating from the vomiting and diarrhea.
Treatment of Fig Poisoning in Dogs
Once your veterinarian has a better understanding of how much the dog consumed, treatment will vary. Fig toxicity is not normally life-threatening; however, rapid treatment is still necessary. Treatment types may include:
If your dog has not vomited from the toxic sap, the veterinarian may perform emesis right away. This will help your dog dispel some of the contents of his stomach. Following up with a dosage or two of activated charcoal will help prevent the toxins from being absorbed into the dog’s system.
Washing and Rinsing
More than likely, if your dog ate a fig plant, he will have a sap-like residue in his mouth area. The veterinarian may choose to decontaminate your dog by giving him a bath in a mild detergent and rinsing him well. This will also remove any remaining sap from his body and prevent further skin irritation. If the sap is in his eyes, he will perform in eyewash as well.
IV fluids will assist your dog in remaining hydrated and will encourage proper urination and kidney function. These fluids will help increase vitality with the healthy enzymes delivered to your dog’s system.
If the sap came into contact with your dog’s eyes, mouth, and skin. He may apply a topical ointment or prescription form to help with the dog’s contact dermatitis.
Recovery of Fig Poisoning in Dogs
Dogs that become affected by the poisonous fig plant recover with treatment. Once your veterinarian decides your dog is well enough to come home, he will give you specific instructions on how to care for him. She will also schedule follow-up examinations to recheck his system to be sure he is recovering. After your dog is home, you will need to monitor him to be sure he is not showing any new symptoms or adverse changes in behavior.
In order to prevent future poisoning from plants from occurring, check the plants within your home and on your property for toxicity. If you are uncertain if your plants are toxic, you can ask your veterinarian or your local ASPCA.
Fig Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My sixty pound pit bull ate some fig leaves a week ago. She vomited them up in around an hour. She will not eat at all and has not eaten in six days. She drinks a lot of water. She was taken to the vet two days ago. He prescribed a Prilosec daily and yesterday gave her an antibiotic. She still won't eat anything. Her vet is not available until Monday. She won't eat boiled chicken, scrambled eggs or chicken soup. Any advice would be appreciated. She is thirteen.
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