What is Giant Dracaena Poisoning?
The giant dracaena is a beautiful palm-like plant that has a red or purple tint to the evergreen leaves which may grow up to ten feet tall and three feet wide. When grown outdoors, it blooms small, white blooms and red berries. However, it can only be grown outdoors in the southern United States, such as Florida, Louisiana, and California. This giant beauty produces a toxic reaction in pets and children because of the saponins in the entire plant. In fact, even adults can be affected if enough giant dracaena is consumed. When saponins are ingested by your dog, the molecules are separated, which allows the poisonous substances to enter the bloodstream, triggering an irritation to the digestive tract and possibly a neurological and cardiac reaction if enough is eaten.
Giant dracaena poisoning is a serious condition caused by the ingestion of any part of a giant dracaena plant due to the saponins that the giant dracaena contains. Saponins are glycosides which produce a foaming sensation that causes significant stomach and intestinal upset, vomiting, appetite loss, diarrhea, and with large ingestions, may cause heartbeat irregularities, coma, and death. Since the giant dracaena has a bitter taste, most dogs will not eat a large enough amount to cause serious side effects. However, some do not care what it tastes like and will eat it anyway. If you think your dog may have eaten any part of a giant dracaena, call your veterinarian right away.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Giant Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
Depending on the amount consumed by your dog, the saponins in the giant dracaena may cause some or all of these symptoms:
- Vomiting (sometimes bloody)
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Appetite loss
- Drooling more than usual
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle spasms or jerks
- Heartbeat irregularity (fast or slow)
The giant dracaena, cordyline australis, is a part of the Agavaceae family and is known by many different names.
- Cabbage palm
- Cabbage tree
- Fountain dracaena
- Grass palm
- False palm
- New Zealand cabbage palm
- Palm lily
Causes of Giant Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
The giant dracaena has an unknown amount of saponins, which can be found in more than 400 plant species. Saponins are known to produce a range of side effects from intestinal irritation to death (rarely). This is caused by the foaming action and the toxic effect on blood cells.
Diagnosis of Giant Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
In order to diagnose your dog correctly, it helps if you can take a photograph of the plant or bring in a piece of it to show the veterinarian. Briefly explain what you know about how much your pet ate and when it occurred as well as the side effects you have noticed, if any. Bring your dog’s medical and vaccine records or just tell the veterinarian your pet’s age, general health, and any medications you have given your dog. Try to remember any details you think the veterinarian may need to know, such as change in bowel or eating habits or unusual behavior.
The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination, which includes blood pressure, heart rate, breath sounds, reflexes, weight, body temperature, and overall condition. A urine and stool sample may be taken at this time for microscopic evaluation and to check for bacterial or fungal infections. To rule out any underlying illnesses, some laboratory tests will be performed, such as liver enzyme levels, a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), and complete blood count (CBC) to measure the amounts of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), phosphatase, proteins, and bilirubin.
In addition, some images will be needed to give the veterinarian a view of your dog’s stomach, intestinal tract, liver, and kidneys. Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasound will be used to see if there are any plant residue or inflammation.
Treatment of Giant Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
Most dog poisoning cases are treated in the same way, depending on the type of toxin and the condition of your pet at the time. Inducing emesis, fluid therapy, and possibly medication is the general treatment plan. However, if your dog has substantial side effects or is not responding well to treatment, hospitalization may be necessary for observation and further treatment.
To remove the saponins and any remaining plant particles from your dog’s system, the veterinarian will administer ipecac or hydrogen peroxide in order to induce vomiting. In addition, sometimes, activated charcoal is given orally to absorb any remaining toxins. If your dog consumed a large amount of giant dracaena, a gastric lavage will usually be done as well to be sure all of the toxins are gone.
Fluids will be given intravenously to flush the kidneys and make sure they are functioning correctly. This will also help replenish your dog’s electrolytes that may have been lost from diarrhea and vomiting.
An antacid and stomach protectant are also helpful if your dog’s symptoms are not subsiding. Antiemetic medication may be given if your dog has not stopped vomiting.
Hospitalization and Observation
It is only necessary to keep your dog for observation in the case of a large consumption of giant dracaena. Also, if your dog is not responding well to the treatments for some reason, 24-hour observation may be recommended.
Recovery of Giant Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
In most cases, your dog will recover quickly with no lasting issues. If your dog ate a large amount of giant dracaena, it may take a little while longer. However, if your pet received treatment right away, it will only be about 24-36 hours before he is back to normal. If you have any questions or concerns, call the veterinarian. To prevent this from happening in the future, remove the giant dracaena from your home or garden, or put it where your dog cannot reach it.