What is Figwort Poisoning?
The figwort, also known as buttercup, is found within the United States. It has over 400 varieties and is commonly found in meadows and fields. This member of the Ranunculaceae family can be also found in pastures, it may also be used as ornamental flowering plants in many homes, businesses, and offices. The flowers on the figwort plant are usually yellow and white, and grow up to nine inches tall.
Figwort has been known as an herbal remedy for fighting rheumatoid arthritis, skin irritations, and fever. This plant was used often in ancient Asian medicinal and holistic practices, and is still used today in herbal medicines.
Figwort contains a toxic substance known as ranunculin within the flowers. The beautiful flowers of the figwort come in a variety of colors, most of them being white and yellow. It flowers in the spring season, and the flowers themselves have a very bitter taste, thus preventing severe toxicity in dogs in other small animals. Once they take a bite they usually stop since the taste is so unappealing.
Figwort poisoning in dogs is the result of dogs consuming the figwort plant which is toxic to dogs and other small animals, as it contains a substance known as ranunculin that can cause many adverse reactions with ingestion.
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Symptoms of Figwort Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of poisoning are dependent on the method of contact. If the oil gets onto the skin, the effects may be mild and may not require immediate medical treatment. If the dog swallows the oily substance, medical attention is necessary. Symptoms of figwort poisoning include:
- Inflammation of the mucous membranes
- Rash on the skin
- Swelling of the skin and face
- Blisters in the mouth
- Agitation and discomfort
If the dog begins to eat figwort, and despite the taste continues eating this plant, he may be subjected to a cardiac glycoside related to digitalis. This is a crystalline, water-insoluble, and colorless poison. Types of this cardiac glycoside, which has toxic properties include:
Causes of Figwort Poisoning in Dogs
Plants, such as figwort, have a natural defense mechanism. Members of the Ranunculaceae family cause toxicity by:
- The chewed flowers release protoanemonin
- Protoanemonin is produced from the ranunculin, a glucoside
- The oily substance causes immediate swelling of the membranes
- Ranunculin breaks down into glucose and into protoanemonin
Diagnosis of Figwort Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect or are certain that your dog has ingested part of a figwort plant, bring a part of the plant, namely the flowers, with you to your veterinarian or animal hospital. This will help the diagnosis from the veterinarian so treatment can begin. The veterinarian will ask about your dog’s complete medical history. He will also perform a complete examination, with various tests such as a urinalysis, a biochemistry profile, and blood work. He will also take the dog’s temperature, blood pressure, test his oxygen level, and his heart rate.
The veterinarian may also use an endoscopic tool to look into your dog’s esophagus and throat. He will be checking for any blistering or irritation with this long tube-like camera. This camera will also allow the veterinarian to take a look at his upper digestive system.
Other tests which the veterinarian may conduct include a fecal examination, blood urea nitrogen test, a test for the glucose level, and the liver enzyme profile. He may also perform radiographs to look at the abdominal area and gastrointestinal area. The veterinarian will be looking at signs of toxicity within your dog’s system, especially if he ingested the plant. He may also conduct an ultrasound to look at the soft-tissue of the stomach. This will check for any irritations and lesions.
Treatment of Figwort Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment depends on the diagnosis and the level of toxicity. Treatment methods of figwort poisoning may include:
If your dog is hospitalized due to figwort poisoning, your veterinarian will begin administering IV fluids to keep him hydrated, give him the electrolytes he needs, promote proper kidney function and urination, and to help flush toxins from the system.
If your dog has not already vomited on his own, the medical professional will induce vomiting. This will help your dog rid himself of any toxic substances. After emesis, activated charcoal will be administered to further absorb any of the toxins.
Medications for figwort poisoning are not usually effective; however, your veterinarian may give topical antihistamines or other antihistamines to help with any swelling or side effects from the ranunculin. The medical professional will also monitor your dog’s heart rate, temperature, oxygen level, and other bodily functions. He may also administer oxygen therapy.
Recovery of Figwort Poisoning in Dogs
Once your dog is released from the hospital, it will be important to encourage rest and give him lots of fluids. Your veterinarian may also recommend a bland diet for a few days up to a week to help the gastrointestinal system recharge. Monitoring your dog throughout his extended recovery at home will be very important; if you see any other symptoms develop it will be important to contact your veterinarian. Be sure to follow the veterinarian’s instructions for aftercare, and keep any follow-up appointments so the veterinarian will be able to check his recovery.