What is Golden Chain Tree Poisoning?
All parts of the tree are poisonous, including the seeds, pods, flowers, buds, leaves, petals, wood, bark, and roots. Sometimes, just eating a small amount of seeds may cause no bad effects, but other times it has been known to be fatal. Nausea and vomiting are the first signs of ingestion, and if you suspect your dog has eaten part of the golden chain tree you should check for parts of the plant in the vomit or see if you can find other evidence of ingestion, such as leaves and vines torn from the tree. The lupine alkaloids in the golden chain tree produce symptoms that are similar to nicotine poisoning: dilated pupils, fast heart rate, agitation, and shaking, which can turn into convulsions, sleepiness, and coma.
The golden chain tree, commonly called laburnum or golden rain tree, is a shrub or tree-like plant that grows chains of flowering vines that have quinolizidine (lupine) alkaloids. It is these alkaloids in the tree that can make your dog, or other small animals, sick. It has been documented that even children have been poisoned and sometimes it has been fatal. Although many people believe it is just the flowers that have the toxins, the whole plant is poisonous. The seedpods are the most toxic because they have a concentrated amount of lupine alkaloids. Ingestion of any part of the plant causes intestinal issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms will progress to more serious symptoms including dilated pupils, coma, and death without treatment.
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Symptoms of Golden Chain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of golden chain tree poisoning will vary from dog to dog and depends on the part of the tree and how much was consumed. The signs are usually noticeable in less than an hour. The most common signs are intestinal problems, but can quickly turn into a dangerous life-threatening emergency. Some of the most often reported symptoms are:
- Agitation and nervousness
- Bluish tint to skin
- Cold and clammy skin
- Dehydration (collapse, dark urine, decrease in urination, dry skin and gums, loss of skin elasticity, marked increase in thirst, sunken eyes, death)
- Dilated pupils insensitive to light
- Excessive sleeping
- Extreme drowsiness
- Fast heart rate
- Incoordination (walking drunk)
- Low blood pressure (depression, dizziness, fainting, lightheadedness, rapid breathing)
In severe cases, a toxic amount will lead to depressed cardiovascular and central nervous system (CNS) if not treated right away. This can be fatal quickly in the case of a small dog or puppy or an older dog.
The golden chain tree is actually a genus of three different species in the faboideae subfamily in the fabaceae pea family of the fabales order. These three are:
- Laburnum anagyroides—common laburnum (southern Europe)
- Laburnum alpinum—alpine laburnum (southern Europe)
- Laburnum caramanicum—broom laburnum (southeast Europe)
They are all deciduous trees that have yellow flowers that resemble pea flowers on hanging vines. The fruit of this tree are formed in a pod, and these are what hold the largest concentration of the toxic alkaloids.
Causes of Golden Chain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
The lupine alkaloids, which are alkaline properties that contain nitrogen, are the main cause of toxicity in the golden chain tree. These alkaloids are created by amino acids and affect your dog’s central nervous system, which can cause a dangerously decreased breathing rate. Approximately 40% of plants recorded have at least one type of alkaloid. The alkaloid in the golden chain tree will produce symptoms within 30 to 45 minutes and depending on the part of the plant and how much of the tree was consumed, can become fatal within the first two hours. There are many medicinal properties produced from alkaloids, such as caffeine.
Diagnosis of Golden Chain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
As with any other suspected plant poisoning, it is preferable if you can bring a part of the plant with you to show the veterinarian. This can help speed up the diagnosis, making the treatment plan faster and easier to come by. Give your veterinarian all the details that you know, including what part and how much of the tree you believe your dog consumed, when it happened, and if you have noticed any symptoms. The veterinarian will then give your dog a complete and thorough physical examination, which includes vitals, pulse oximetry, blood pressure, heart rate, breath sounds, and reflexes.
Laboratory tests that will be performed depend on your dog’s symptoms, how much of the plant was eaten, and when this occurred. In most cases, your veterinarian will get a complete blood count, urinalysis, blood chemistry profile, and electrolyte levels. If necessary, they may also perform x-rays, an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or an endoscopy to see if there are any parts of the plant remaining in your dog’s airway or esophagus.
Treatment of Golden Chain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment also depends on your dog’s symptoms. Most often, the veterinarian will give intravenous (IV) fluids, induce vomiting, and perform a charcoal lavage to absorb the poisons and flush them from your dog’s symptoms. In severe cases, your veterinarian will admit your dog to the hospital for observation and to provide supplemental treatments as needed.
Recovery of Golden Chain Tree Poisoning in Dogs
As long as you got treatment within the first few hours of your dog showing symptoms, his prognosis is good. If your dog ate an extremely large amount of seed pods, the prognosis is not as good, but with immediate treatment by a veterinarian or animal hospital or clinic, the chance for a complete recovery is increased dramatically. The most important thing is to get your dog to a veterinary professional as soon as possible, whether it is your own veterinarian or a clinic. To reduce the chances of another episode, be sure to get rid of any golden chain tree or fence off the entire area if the tree is outdoors. As always, call your veterinarian if you have any further concerns.
Golden Chain Tree Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Podocarpus macrophyllus Our dog ate some of the small berries off of this tree. She vomited it all up. We found out today what type of tree it is. Is she at risk for anything more serious than vomiting?
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