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Dracaena surculosa, more commonly known as the golddust dracaena plant and the Florida beauty plant, is a slow-growing evergreen plant with large elliptical leaves decorated with cream colored spots. It is popular as a houseplant due to the attractively spotted leaves, and its hardiness. Saponins that are found throughout the plant can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and loss of coordination in your pet, though it is not generally considered to be lethal. If your pet has ingested any part of this plant, your veterinarian should be contacted for further instructions. Depending on the dose and symptoms that are showing, you may be given home care instructions, or asked to bring the animal in.
Plants in the Dracaena family, such as dracaena surculosa, contain compounds called saponins that can cause gastrointestinal distress and mild to moderate impairment of the central nervous system. Ingestion of the Florida beauty plant by your dog may warrant a veterinary visit.
Symptoms of poisoning from dracaena plants tend to be mild unless large quantities of the plant are consumed. Initial symptoms are very similar to the symptoms from more serious toxins as well, so if you are at all uncertain of the origin of the poison, it may be wise to transport your pet to the emergency clinic.
There are several plants in the Dracaena family that carry these saponins. Some of the more commonly seen plants in this family can include:
- This plant is often marketed as lucky bamboo, but is not closely related to true bamboo at all. Also known as curly bamboo and ribbon dracaena, it is commonly seen in both houses and places of business to promote happiness and prosperity.
- This plant is a drought tolerant tree-like plant which secretes a reddish resin which is one of several plant based substances known as dragon’s blood.
- Also known as striped dracaena or the Jenny Craig plant, this evergreen is popular as a houseplant due to its attractive lance-shaped leaves that are approximately two feet in length.
Plants in the Dracaena family contain various toxic saponins in all parts of the plant. These saponins are non-toxic to humans but mildly to moderately noxious for both dogs and cats. If you catch your pet grazing on these plants, you should contact your veterinarian for further instructions.
Identification, combined with symptomatology is often all that is required for a preliminary diagnosis, particularly if your saw your dog sampling the Florida beauty plant. If you didn’t observe the ingestion of the plant, your veterinarian will want to know if your pet had access to compost, trash, or questionable non-food sources in addition to any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is taking, in an attempt to reveal which toxin is responsible for the signs that are evident.
A biochemistry profile will also be used to this end, as will a complete blood count and urinalysis with particular attention being paid to results regarding liver and kidney functionality. Any plant material found in the vomit will help confirm the diagnosis. If an intestinal blockage is the cause of the distress, rather than the toxin itself, the examiner may find a mass where the vegetation has clumped together or discover that the abdomen is extremely sensitive to touch, prompting the veterinary team to suggest further imaging methods. Ultrasound, x-ray, or even a barium study may be selected to accurately determine the location of the possible obstruction in your dog's stomach or intestines.
Treatment will be guided by the symptoms that your pet is showing and the length of time since the ingestion of the Florida beauty plant. If your dog is in distress when you call or visit the office, supportive therapy such as treatment with IV fluids may be offered and begun before a diagnosis is determined.
In some cases, gastric decontamination becomes necessary to remove as much of the toxin from the system as possible. These steps could include inducing vomiting, gastric lavage, and the use of activated charcoal. In the event that your pet is vomiting excessively, a period of withholding food may be recommended until the vomiting has ceased for at least 12 hours. In the case of an intestinal blockage, in most cases, therapies such as fluid therapy can be used to speed the mass through the system. Imaging will be repeated periodically in order to track the movement of the mass until it exits the gastrointestinal system. In severe cases, surgery will be required to remove the mass and correct any damage that it has caused.
Prognosis for poisoning caused by eating the Florida beauty plant is usually good. It should be noted though, that a pet who suddenly develops pica, which is the urge to eat large amounts of inappropriate items like vegetation, may be responding other disorders such as brain lesions, circulatory abnormalities, or vitamin deficiencies, and should be checked by a veterinarian. The best way to keep your pet safe is by careful observation of their behavior and environment.
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