What is Franciscan Rain Tree Poisoning?
Brunfelsia plants, also referred to as Franciscan rain trees, bloom throughout the summer and are a beautiful addition to many gardens, but can be fatal to any animal that decides to sample these plants. Also known as noon and night, lady of the night, and the yesterday, today, and tomorrow plant, all of the parts of the plant contain the toxic components, although they are much more concentrated in the berries and seed pods. Franciscan rain trees affect your pet in several ways using a combination of three distinct toxins. Brunfelsia plant poisonings should be treated as an urgent matter as supportive therapies are vital to increase the chances of survival.
The beautiful Franciscan rain tree contains a deadly toxin that affects the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system, and ingestion of this plant should be considered an emergency.
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Symptoms of Franciscan Rain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Both the gastrointestinal and the neurological systems are included in the symptoms of poisoning by the plants in the Brunfelsia family. Symptoms of poisoning by these flowering plants include:
- Anxious behavior
- Excessive drooling
- Lack of coordination
- Muscle rigidity
Your Franciscan rain tree is not the only possible source of toxins with similar symptoms that may be found in your garden. Other toxic substances that may be easily confused with Brunfelsia poisoning can include:
Spider bite - Neurotoxic effects from spider bites in North America are usually the result of being bitten by a black widow spider.
Snail bait - The dangerous neurotoxin in snail bait, metaldehyde, is often formed into pellets containing canine tempting flavors such as molasses and apple.
Toad poisoning - The signs of toad venom poison are very similar to the signs of brunfelsia poisoning. The toad venom, however, will cause reddened gums and ropy saliva in addition to the other symptoms.
Causes of Franciscan Rain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Three components combine to elevate the toxicity of this beautiful flower:
Brunfelsamidine - This is the component that is responsible for exciting the nervous system, which can lead to seizures and death.
Hopeanine - This toxin depresses the central nervous system leading to weakness and paralysis.
Scopoletin - This compound, also known as gelseminic acid, is a muscle relaxant that affects the smooth muscles. It can cause a drop in blood pressure and heart rate due to neuromuscular block.
Diagnosis of Franciscan Rain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
If the intake of any part of this decorative plant was observed, identification of the Franciscan rain tree by the veterinarian is often satisfactory to make a preliminary diagnosis. If your dog consumed any part of a plant that you believe to be a Franciscan rain tree and is exhibiting any related symptoms, bring a sample of the plant into the veterinarian's office to ensure a speedier identification for treatment. If you didn’t observe the ingestion of the plant, your dog’s doctor will ask you about any suspected opportunistic eating that may have occurred and about any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is taking. Be as detailed as possible, and also inform the veterinary team of recent travel history or illnesses of late.
The symptoms of neurotoxicity will prompt blood chemistry tests to be done in an attempt to reveal or confirm which specific toxins are responsible for the reaction. Your veterinarian will also check for any drug interactions that may affect the planned treatment. Plant material found in any contents that have been expelled from the digestive system may help to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Franciscan Rain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
If your pet has consumed any part of the Franciscan rain tree, you should transport him to the veterinarian’s office as quickly and calmly as possible in order for decontamination and supportive therapies to be administered. Emetics are not recommended in cases of poisoning by this plant as they can instigate seizure activity. Instead, activated charcoal will be administered to the patient to attempt to soak up as many of the toxic compounds as possible. Decontamination by gastric lavage is the treatment of choice, used to remove as much of the plant material from the canine’s stomach as possible in order to prevent the three toxins from passing from the digestive system into the bloodstream.
There is no antidote to poisoning from the Franciscan rain tree plant, so treatment is generally supportive, including IV fluids for dehydration as well as mixtures of electrolytes and sugars to adjust for any imbalances that develop. Anti-seizure medications may also be administered to your dog to calm the seizures and tremors that are characteristic of brunfelsia poisonings.
Recovery of Franciscan Rain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
A relaxing and quiet environment to return home to will help your pet recover more quickly. Symptoms of neurotoxicity can last several hours and dogs that are recovering from anesthesia, as would be required for gastric lavage, may have coordination difficulties when they return home. Disorientation and confusion are common, and isolation from other pets and from children may be advised until both the toxic compounds and the sedatives have fully cleared your companion’s system. In some circumstances, your veterinarian may recommend regular monitoring of blood chemistry levels for your pet, particularly regarding the functionality of the liver and kidneys.