What is Flag Poisoning?
Flags (also called Iris) come in almost 300 types in many different colors and can be bearded (referring to the furry area on the inside of the petals) or beardless. This beautiful flower grows all over the northern hemisphere and multiplies every year, so even a few flags can become dozens in less than five years. Some styles can grow up to three feet tall or more. These beauties are also helpful in water purification because they drink the nutrient pollutants from the water while leaving only clean water. The flag is the national flower of Tennessee and part of many decorations, such as flags, paintings, and it is part of the fleur-de-lis and coat-of-arms. With all of this beauty comes another problem; the toxic substances contained in the roots as well as the plant itself.
Flag poisoning is due to the consumption of any part of a flag plant (the roots are most toxic) and can be moderately serious in some dogs. In most cases, if just one root or flower is eaten, your dog may show signs of gastrointestinal distress (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain) and may also have contact dermatitis in areas of exposure. While the side effects may not seem severe, this painful episode can lead to ulceration of the intestinal tract and lack of appetite. There are several toxic substances in the flag plant including pentacyclic terpenes and quinines that have the ability to cause stomach and small intestinal bleeding, among other side effects.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Flag Poisoning in Dogs
The signs of flag poisoning are determined by how much and what part of the plant was eaten. Also, if your dog is very young, older, or is not in good health, the symptoms may be more severe. Some of the most common symptoms reported by owners of pets who consumed flag plants are:
- Contact dermatitis (red rash and blisters where exposed)
- Skin and eye irritation
- Blisters on face and mouth
- Excess drooling
- Extreme tiredness
- Abdominal pain
- Ulceration of the intestinal tract
The flag is another name for iris, which is a huge family of close to 300 species in the Iridaceae family. Flags come in hundreds of color combinations and styles (bearded/non-bearded, tall, etc.), but they are all equally toxic to dogs. There are many different names to go with all the different types of flag. Some of the most common are:
- Bearded iris
- Blue western flag
- Iris missouriensis
- Rocky Mountain iris
- Snake lily
- Water iris
- Yellow flag
Causes of Flag Poisoning in Dogs
The flag plant contains several pentacyclic terpenes and quinines.
- Irisin in the roots
- Irisoquin in the roots
- Missouriensin in the whole plant
- Missourin in the whole plant
- Zeorin in the whole plant
Diagnosis of Flag Poisoning in Dogs
If you cannot get an appointment with your family veterinarian, take your dog to a local veterinary hospital or clinic. It is essential that your pet be seen by a veterinary professional to be sure there will be no serious complications from the toxins in the flag. A physical examination of your dog will reveal any abnormalities or side effects from ingestion of the flag plant. The veterinarian will examine your dog’s coat and skin condition and take a look at your pet’s ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. In addition, body temperature, blood pressure, weight, reflexes, and heart rate will all be recorded. Urine and stool samples may be taken for microscopic examination for infection and parasites.
To rule out other disease and illnesses, a biochemical profile, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), complete blood count (CBC), creatinine levels (CREAT), packed cell volume (PCV), and liver enzyme panel will be done. The biochemical profile and CBC provides the general health of your dog’s internal organ function and the PCV and BUN show whether your pet is dehydrated. Abdominal x-rays or ultrasound may be performed to give the veterinarian a closer look at your dog’s intestinal tract so she can tell if there are any blockages or inflammation. If necessary, an MRT or CT scan may be done as well.
Treatment of Flag Poisoning in Dogs
Similar to other poisoning cases, your dog will be treated depending on the amount eaten and symptoms shown. The general steps to treat poisoning are evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation.
If it has not been more than six hours since ingestion, the veterinarian will induce vomiting by giving your dog ipecac or hydrogen peroxide by mouth. Activated charcoal will also be administered to absorb the toxins that have not yet been absorbed by the body. This step may be repeated depending on the amount of flag your pet ingested.
To detoxify your pet, the veterinarian may perform a gastric lavage. This is done by using a long tube to rinse the plant materials and toxins from your dog’s stomach. Your pet will be sedated to prevent movement during the procedure. Intravenous (IV) fluids will also be administered to flush the kidneys and prevent dehydration.
It may be necessary to give your dog stomach protectants and antacids to help with the gastric irritation. If your pet has any dermatitis or eye irritation, your veterinarian will rinse the area thoroughly and administer dermal cream and eye drops for the redness and pain.
The veterinarian may admit your dog to the hospital for observation if the side effects are serious or if the treatment is not working as it should.
Recovery of Flag Poisoning in Dogs
The prognosis for flag poisoning is generally good as long as there have been no serious symptoms or signs of complications. For the next few weeks, you should continue to monitor your pet’s eating habits and general health and call your veterinarian if you have any concerns.