What is Florist's Calla Poisoning?
The florist’s calla (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is a graceful tropical plant in the Araceae family displaying a large, white flower composed of a single petal, or spathe. Florist’s calla is more commonly known by the names calla lily and arum lily, although it does not actually belong to the lily family. All parts of the florist’s calla contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which will cause intense pain and irritation to the mouth and throat when chewed or swallowed. The irritation posed by the sharp crystals usually prevents animals from doing more than tasting the plant. On rare occasions, the dog may eat larger amounts of plant material. On those occasions, your canine companion may require a visit to the veterinarian’s office.
The florist’s calla, better known as the calla lily, contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which cause intense pain and irritation in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract when chewed or swallowed.
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Symptoms of Florist's Calla Poisoning in Dogs
The florist's calla, or calla lily plant, contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in all parts of the plant. When chewed or swallowed these crystals can cause:
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Dilated eyes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive drooling
- Hoarse barking
- Labored breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Numbness of exposed area
- Obstruction of the airway
- Pawing/rubbing at the face or mouth
- Swelling of the tongue and lips
The Zantedeschia aethiopica plant is a tropical plant with a conspicuous white flower on top of a large stem. It most commonly called a calla lily but also goes by the names arum lily and florist’s calla. Several other varieties of plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which are the cause of irritation from plants in the Araceae family. Other plants that contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals include:
- Arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum)
- Candelabra cactus (Euphorbia lactea)
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestrum)
- Charming dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia amoena)
- Devil’s ivy (Pothos, Epipremnum)
- Elephant’s ear (Alocasia/Caladium/Xanthsoma)
- Flamingo plant (Anthurium)
- Fruit salad plant (Monstera)
- Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Philodendron (Philodendron)
- Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)
- Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
- Wild calla (Calla)
Causes of Florist's Calla Poisoning in Dogs
All parts of the florist’s calla contain the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which afflict your pet. Calcium oxalate is a calcium salt of oxalic acid which generates irritation and numbness to the tissues it contacts. Chewing any part of the plant releases the sap into the mouth causing immediate pain and inflammation to the mouth and throat areas as the tiny crystals are embedded into the soft tissues that they contact. If the plant material or sap is swallowed, the irritation will extend down the throat and through the GI tract, which can cause swelling and severe pain. Severe breathing problems can also occur if the swelling blocks the airway.
Diagnosis of Florist's Calla Poisoning in Dogs
Many of the signs and symptoms of exposure to the calcium oxalate crystals from the florist’s calla will present instantaneously, so identification of the plant is often sufficient to form a preliminary diagnosis for the cause of your dog’s agony. Gastrointestinal symptoms can take up to two hours to show up, particularly when the plant is not well chewed before ingestion. If you did not notice what your pet ingested, or if your dog swallowed sizeable quantities of the plant, a visit to the veterinary clinic will be needed.
Your dog’s doctor will want to get information from you about any opportunistic eating in addition to any supplements or prescriptions that are being administered to your dog on a regular basis. A physical examination will be completed at this point, including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. This is done to expose any concurrent diseases or disorders that may be concealed. If your dog is vomiting from exposure to the plant material, then the vomit will also be evaluated and tested for toxins. If plant material is found in the vomit it will help confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Florist's Calla Poisoning in Dogs
Initial treatment involves thoroughly rinsing out the mouth and any other affected portions with cool, clean water to remove as many of the sharp crystals as is possible. You may also want to offer your dog something else cold to eat or drink, such as milk or ice cubes. This can help to ease the oral pain until you are able to reach your pet’s doctor. The unpleasant taste combined with the immediate discomfort generally prevents most canines from chewing or eating much of the actual plant material, in which case, rinsing the mouth area out completely may be all that is necessary to ease the suffering. In certain circumstances, your veterinarian may also recommend giving your dog an appropriate pain reliever or antihistamine.
If a considerable quantity of the sap or plant material was ingested, a visit to the veterinarian’s office is advised. If antihistamines were not previously administered, it might be given as an intramuscular injection at this time. The veterinarian may begin intravenous therapy to prevent dehydration. Gastroprotective medications may also be recommended to prevent damage to the stomach lining. A significantly swollen airway may require your canine to be kept under observation at the office until the swelling subsides.
Recovery of Florist's Calla Poisoning in Dogs
If only smaller amounts of the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals contained in the florist’s calla are ingested, then, the prognosis is usually quite good. The pain and swelling in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract generally dissipate within twelve to twenty-four hours from ingestion. Any swelling in the airway should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away to prevent the possibility of suffocation. Substantial doses of calcium oxalate crystals are extremely uncommon due to the initial pain and discomfort in the mouth. When larger doses do occur they can cause liver and kidney damage, so the liver and kidneys will often require further monitoring if substantial quantities of the sap were ingested.