What is Giant Dumbcane Poisoning?
Giant Dumbcane is a common name for many plants belonging to the Dieffenbachia genus. Other names for these plants include dumbcane, spotted dumbcane, tropic snow and exotica or exotica perfection. Dumbcane are native to tropical areas of Central and South America, but they are grown as houseplants or garden ornamentals in many parts of the world. Dumbcane plants have tall straight stems with alternating pointed oval leaves that can grow to be quite large. Different varieties have different markings on the leaves. Dumbcane plants only flower rarely and are grown mainly for their impressive foliage. All parts of the plant contain calcium oxalate crystals which can cause irritation upon contact and burning pain and inflammation if swallowed. According to legend, Amazonian hunters made their arrows more effective by dipping them in dumbcane toxin. The common name of the plant also supposedly came from symptoms of poisoning which made victims unable to speak. Intense pain upon ingestion, followed by local swelling of the mouth and tongue are the most common symptoms. If inflammation and swelling spreads down the esophagus, it can lead to difficulty breathing and even fatal asphyxiation, however this is rare.
Calcium oxalate is the same substance which produces kidney stones, so large doses or long term consumption can also lead to permanent kidney damage. Giant dumbcane is a hazard for any dog that is prone to chewing on houseplants. Children can also be at risk, as well as anyone who is unfamiliar with the toxic component of the plant. Most cases of mild dumbcane poisoning are treatable, but large amounts or delayed treatment can result in death.
Giant Dumbcane is a common houseplant that is grown for its large multi-patterned leaves. Calcium oxalate crystals make all parts of the plant toxic for dogs, as well as humans and other animals. In severe cases, swelling of the throat can lead to fatal asphyxiation.
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Symptoms of Giant Dumbcane Poisoning in Dogs
These are the symptoms you may see if your dog ingests giant dumbcane. Immediate veterinary treatment will be needed to save your dog’s life.
- Pawing at the mouth
- Oral irritation and pain
- Swelling of the mouth or tongue
- Lack of appetite (anorexia)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Respiratory difficulty
There are numerous species of Giant Dumbcane. These are some of the most common varieties grown ornamentally.
- Dieffenbachia picta – Camilla or exotica
- Dieffenbachia amoena – Tropic snow or leopard lily
- Dieffenbachia oerstedii – the only variety with solid green leaves
- Dieffenbachia bausei – leaves with an even balance of green and yellow
- Dieffenbachia bowmannii – very large leaves
Causes of Giant Dumbcane Poisoning in Dogs
Some factors can make your dog more at risk for giant dumbcane poisoning.
- Giant dumbcane grown as a houseplant
- Ornamental dumbcane plants grown in gardens (warmer climates)
- Dogs that are prone to chewing on plants
Diagnosis of Giant Dumbcane Poisoning in Dogs
Giant dumbcane poisoning will be diagnosed based on symptoms and a history of ingestion. Sudden signs of pain or oral swelling should be a concern for dog owners with a dumbcane plant. Finding stems or leaves chewed can also be a good suggestion your dog has been eating this plant. Your dog should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Bring a sample of the plant with you for identification. Wear gloves whenever handling the plant, and transport the sample in a sealed container. The veterinarian will physically examine your dog. Blood and urines tests may be used to diagnose the severity of toxicity or the presence of kidney damage, but these tests are usually secondary to emergency treatment.
Treatment of Giant Dumbcane Poisoning in Dogs
For immediate home treatment, gently wash any part of the body which came in contact with the plant, including the mouth and tongue. Give your dog milk or water to drink. Don’t induce vomiting unless recommended by a professional. Call an emergency veterinary clinic or a poison helpline as soon as possible. Be prepared to describe the plant exactly, as well as give your dog’s size and weight, and an estimate as to how much was ingested.
Get in-person veterinary treatment as soon as possible. The veterinarian will be able to induce vomiting more effectively and may even perform gastric lavage under anesthesia. Activated charcoal may be given to reduce absorption.
The veterinarian will monitor your dog’s vital signs and treat symptoms as necessary. Emergency procedures to open the dog’s airways and relieve respiratory difficulty may be necessary as well as medications to reduce inflammation and swelling. Intravenous fluids or medications to support the kidneys will be given in severe cases.
Recovery of Giant Dumbcane Poisoning in Dogs
Most dogs recover from mild giant dumbcane poisoning, but immediate treatment is necessary. Large doses, delayed treatment, or other complications can all result in fatalities or permanent damage. Given its potential for severe toxicity, it’s inadvisable to keep a giant dumbcane plant in your house unless your dog is extremely well trained and you’re fairly certain he won’t eat it.
If you do have giant dumbcane in your house or garden, put it in a place that is as inaccessible as possible. Check regularly for signs of chewed or nibbled leaves. Wear gloves whenever handling the plant and throw away any pruned or dead leaves in a sealed garbage can. Plant safe grasses in or around your house, and encourage your dog to chew on these if he likes to eat plant material. Advise parents and other dog owners of the plant’s toxicity if you have visitors, and have a plan in place for emergency treatment if it becomes necessary.