What is Foxglove Poisoning?
Foxglove has beautiful trumpet-like blossoms leading it to be a common plant in many gardens. It is also a native flower in many regions and multiplies on its own, meaning it will come back continuously each season. These plants are low maintenance and are very appealing to the eye, making it a very popular flower in bouquets. Despite the pretty appearance, the foxglove can be dangerous to your pet’s health and care must be taken if you have the plant in the home or surrounding gardens.
Foxglove is a common houseplant found both inside and outside of many homes due to its pleasing ornamental appearance. Studies show that often, people who own this plant do not realize it is extremely toxic to their pet. Nausea, tremors, and collapse are just a few of the symptoms that may be seen as the result of toxic exposure. If you suspect your dog has ingested this plant, contact your veterinarian immediately.
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Symptoms of Foxglove Poisoning in Dogs
Onset of toxicity symptoms will vary depending on how much your dog consumes. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
- Dilated pupils
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Slowed pulse
If you believe your dog has ingested or chewed a piece of this plant, treat it as a medical emergency and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Foxglove’s scientific name is Digitalis purpurea belonging to the family Scrophulariaceae. The flowers of this plant have a very distinct look and come in a variety of colors. They grow 2 to 5 feet tall, depending on the species, and are short-lived but multiply easily.
Causes of Foxglove Poisoning in Dogs
The entire foxglove plant is considered toxic when ingested. Foxglove has naturally occurring toxins that affect the heart. These are called cardenolides of bufadienolides, also known as cardiac glycoside toxins (digoxin-a cardiac medication, derived from cardiac glycosides, is used in veterinary medicine). This medication is used in patients with heart failure to help their heart beat stronger and to regulate the rhythm. In a healthy pet, use of this medication only makes matters worse and causes cardiac issues to manifest in the patient.
Diagnosis of Foxglove Poisoning in Dogs
When you take your dog to the clinic, the veterinarian will start with a physical examination. This will give the doctor an idea of what vitals are abnormal and by how much. Blood work will be run to see how your dog is doing internally. A complete blood count (CBC), a chemistry panel, and a packed cell volume (PCV) will be the first tests run to give a broad baseline. A urinalysis will also be performed to check your dog’s kidney function. If your dog is suffering cardiac problems, he will be put on monitoring equipment and additional testing such as an ECG or ultrasound may be performed as well. If further evaluation is needed to determine the extent of the foxglove poisoning, more tests will be ordered from there. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to this plant, be sure to take it with you to the veterinarian so the team can see what they are dealing with. Also, give the time of ingestion if you know it, or note the time your dog started acting abnormally.
Treatment of Foxglove Poisoning in Dogs
Depending on the symptoms your dog is showing, treatment will be decided from there. There is no antidote for foxglove poisoning; supportive therapy will be the course of treatment. Activated charcoal may be administered to absorb the toxin instead of it being absorbed into the bloodstream. Your dog will be started on intravenous fluids to correct any electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Additional medications may be administered by the veterinarian; if your dog is vomiting uncontrollably, an antiemetic will be administered. If your dog is seizing, anti-seizure drugs will be administered. The blood work results will give the veterinarian an idea of what is happening to your dog’s internal organs and how it is metabolizing the toxin. With this information, the doctor will be able to administer medications as required.
Recovery of Foxglove Poisoning in Dogs
The amount of foxglove your dog has ingested will play a major role in his recovery. Also, the sooner you take your dog to his veterinarian, the better. The longer you wait, the more his chance of a full recovery decreases. Toxicity of this plant ranges from moderate to severe making prompt treatment an important factor in recovery. The veterinarian will likely keep your dog in the hospital until he is no longer showing symptoms of toxicity and his blood work returns to normal. Educate yourself on what plants you bring into your home or plant in your garden. Avoid access by your pet at all times. Many plants are toxic to pets; it is wise to limit your purchases to plants that are known to be safe.