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What is Garden Sorrel Poisoning?

Garden sorrel is a member of the family Polygonaceae, and may be also referred to as common sorrel or sorrel. Scientifically known as Rumex Scutatus, this plant is grown as a perennial herb or leafy vegetable. It resembles lettuce, and can be consumed by people within dishes or salads, and can also be used for medicinal purposes to treat a variety of ailments. 

It grows in grasslands within Europe and Asia and was introduced to North America. This herb can grow up to two feet in height with deep roots. The leaves can be eaten if they are boiled in water to decrease the level of oxalate toxicity. The garden sorrel contains oxalates, and can affect the gastrointestinal tract of individuals.  Oxalates are also toxic to dogs, and the amount of oxalates, including raphides, in the sorrel plant depends on the concentration of the leaves and stems.

The plant can affect dogs’ if ingested, due to the insoluble calcium oxalates within the parts of the plant. Garden sorrel does not have as high of a concentration of these crystals as many other toxic, raphide-containing plants, but can cause irritation and pain when ingested by dogs in large amounts.

Garden sorrel poisoning in dogs is the result of dogs ingesting the plant known as garden sorrel, which contains insoluble calcium oxalates that cause a myriad of side effects.

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Symptoms of Garden Sorrel Poisoning in Dogs

If your dog has ingested large quantities of garden sorrel, he may become sick and require veterinary attention. Symptoms of garden sorrel poisoning in dogs include:

  • Burning in the mouth
  • Pawing at the face
  • Swollen face or mouth area
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hypocalcemia
  • Renal disorders

Types 

Garden sorrel, the common name for this plant, also goes by a variety of other names. Other name types include:

  • Narrow leaved dock
  • Spinach dock
  • Sorrel
  • Common Sorrel
  • Rumex
  • Sheep’s Sorrel

Causes of Garden Sorrel Poisoning in Dogs

Causes of garden sorrel poisoning in dogs begins with the ingestion of large quantities of the plant. Specific causes of garden sorrel poisoning include:

  • Contains raphides which are irritating to the mouth when chewed
  • When chewed, raphides are broken down and release calcium oxalate crystals
  • If swallowed, the sharp crystals can irritate the tissues
  • Crystals can penetrate the tissues of the mouth, throat, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract, causing severe inflammation

Diagnosis of Garden Sorrel Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has ingested the garden sorrel, contact your veterinarian. If possible, take a sample of the plant to the visit with you. Once you get to the veterinarian with your dog, your veterinarian will ask you questions about how much he ingested and the time frame which has passed since he ate the plant. He may immediately begin administering fluids to your dog, in addition to thoroughly rinsing and decontaminating his face and mouth of the toxic chemicals of the plant.

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination. He will conduct blood work, urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile. He may also want to take a sample of his stomach contents. Once the testing comes back, your veterinarian will understand the level of toxicity your dog has in his system. Your medical professional may also evaluate his kidney function, which may be revealed in the biochemistry profile and urinalysis, to be sure your dog’s kidneys are not in danger of failing.

Your veterinarian may induce vomiting if your dog has not already done so on his own. He may do this before any laboratory testing and test the contents for a more rapid diagnosis. 

Treatment of Garden Sorrel Poisoning in Dogs

Once your veterinarian has determined your dog is suffering from Garden sorrel poisoning, he will perform a few actions to treat him. Treatment methods include:

Fluids

Your veterinarian will immediately administer fluids to your dog to help him flush out the toxins from the plant. In these fluids he may also add an antihistamine to counteract the histamines released by the raphides.

Emesis

Emesis may be performed if the veterinarian feels it is safe to do so. This depends on the level of toxicity and if he feels the dog does not have a risk of asphyxiation. If there is a risk, a stomach tube may be placed instead to flush out the contents of the stomach. This procedure may be followed by a few doses of activated charcoal to help further absorb the toxic chemicals.

Observation

Your dog may be kept overnight or for a few nights to be observed by the veterinarian. In doing so, he may continue the fluid therapy and monitor his vital signs, such as heart rate, kidney function, urination, blood pressure, and any other bodily system to be sure he is beginning to recover.

Recovery of Garden Sorrel Poisoning in Dogs

Once your dog is able to come home, your veterinarian will communicate with you the next steps you need to take in his recovery. These may consist of a lot of rest, making sure your loved one gets fresh water several times a day, and following any dietary changes he recommends. If your dog suffered from vomiting and diarrhea, your medical professional may want him to be on a very bland diet for the next few days or week. This will help his stomach heal from any discomfort.

If you see any additional signs of discomfort or any behavioral changes, contact your veterinarian. It would also be wise to remove any poisonous plants, namely the Garden sorrel from your property so your pup is not tempted to consume it a second time. If you are unsure of which plants are poisonous in addition to the Garden sorrel, contact your local ASPCA or humane society and they will be able to help you make this determination.