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The flamingo flower is a decorative tropical plant in the Anthurium family that is valued for it’s bright, uniquely shaped flowers. Every part of the flamingo plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals and these crystals can cause intense pain and irritation when chewed or swallowed. This irritation usually prevents animals from doing more than sampling the plant. On rare occasions, the dog may ingest bulkier amounts of plant material. On those occasions, your canine companion may require a visit to the veterinarian’s office.
The flamingo plant is a tropical flowering plant that contains calcium oxalate crystals. The crystals cause intense pain and irritation in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract when chewed or swallowed.
The flamingo flower contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in every part of the plant. When chewed or swallowed these crystals instigate:
The flamingo flower is named for the large heart-shaped flower that stands erect on a tall stem surrounded by waxy-looking leaves. Although flamingo flower is the most common moniker of this plant, it also goes by the names laceleaf, painted tongue, and tail flower. Several other varieties of plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which are the cause of irritation from plants in the anthurium family. These plants can include:
Calcium oxalate is a calcium salt of oxalic acid which produces irritation and numbness to the tissues it comes in contact with. Every part of the flamingo flower contains the calcium oxalate crystals that cause the animal’s suffering. Chewing usually causes immediate pain as well as inflammation when the microscopic crystals are embedded in the soft tissues of the mouth and possibly the throat. When the sap or plant material is swallowed, the irritation can extend down the throat and into the GI tract, causing swelling and severe pain. The swelling has been known to cause breathing difficulty if the airway becomes blocked.
Oral symptoms resulting from contact with the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in the flamingo flower will present right away, which means that quite often, the identification of the plant is all that is required to get an accurate preliminary diagnosis. Occasionally symptoms can take up to two hours to show up, particularly if your pet swallowed the plant material without chewing it first. If you did not notice what your pet ingested, or if the amount of plant material that your dog ingested was significant, your veterinarian might recommend a visit to the office. Your pet’s doctor will want to take detailed notes about any opportunistic eating and will also inquire about any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is on.
A urinalysis, complete blood count, and biochemistry profile are likely to be done during the physical exam as well. This is done in order to point out any concurrent diseases or disorders. If your dog has ingested enough of the plant material that they are vomiting, then the stomach contents that were expelled will also be examined and tested for toxins. Plant material found in the vomit should help confirm the diagnosis.
Initial actions should start with a thorough saturation of the mouth and affected areas with sanitary water to remove as many of the insoluble crystals as possible. You may want to offer your dog something cold to eat or drink to ease the oral pain until you are able to contact your veterinarian for further instructions. In most cases, the discomfort and unpleasant taste will discourage most canines from ingesting a considerable amount of the actual plant material and so rinsing the mouth area may be enough to prevent further discomfort from developing. Your veterinarian will often recommend giving your dog a suitable pain reliever or antihistamine for symptom relief as well.
If larger amounts of the plant material or sap have been ingested, a visit to the veterinarian’s office might be requested. If an antihistamine was not previously administered, it may be dispensed at this time in the form of an intramuscular injection, and IV fluid treatment will be initiated to prevent dehydration if your canine companion is showing signs of this complication. Gastro-protective medications may be recommended as well, to prevent damage to the lining of the stomach. If the airway is significantly swollen, your canine will probably need to be kept under observation at the office until the swelling subsides.
The effects of the calcium oxalate crystals in the mouth usually disappear within twelve to twenty-four hours after ingestion, and most gastrointestinal troubles blow over in about the same amount of time. Dogs that ingest smaller amounts of the plants containing the calcium oxalate crystals, such as the flamingo flower, should recover quickly. Any swelling in the airway should be evaluated by a veterinarian, regardless of the amount ingested. Because of the initial pain and discomfort in the mouth, the ingestion of massive doses is rare. When larger than normal consumption has taken place, it can cause serious liver and kidney damage so these vital organs may require regular monitoring.
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