What is Gopher Purge Poisoning?
Gopher purge, or spurge, is native to the Mediterranean region and has a history of medicinal use. Once used as a purgative before modern medicine, it also has a history of being used to treat certain cancers and warts. This plant, also known as the mole plant, was brought over to the United States to help repel moles and other rodents in various agricultural settings. Eventually it self-seeded and is now found in many areas of the eastern and western coast of the United States.
Gopher purge is botanically and scientifically known as Euphorbia lathyris. This plant stands upright with linear leaves that are bluish to greenish in color. When snapped open or bitten into, a toxic sap emerges from the leaves and stem. This toxic sap contains saponins that can cause irritation to the skin when touched and many symptoms, some severe, when ingested by dogs and humans. It is recommended; when working with the plant that gloves are worn to keep the sap away from the skin.
Gopher purge poisoning in dogs is the result of dogs ingesting all or part of a gopher purge plant which can cause toxic effects like frequent urination and dizziness . Gopher purge contains a toxic sap that can cause severe irritation to the skin, and when ingested can cause symptoms of toxicity.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Gopher Purge Poisoning in Dogs
When gopher purge is ingested by dogs, multiple signs of toxicity can occur. Symptoms of gopher purge poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- Painful skin irritation
- Frequent and painful urination
- Swelling of mucous membranes within the mouth
- Swelling of the tongue
- Cold body extremities
Gopher purge has a variety of names for the same plant. Knowledge of the alternate names is important, especially if there are dogs around the plant. Other names for gopher purge are:
- Gopher spurge
- Mole plant
- Euphorbia lathyris
- Caper spurge
- Leafy spurge
- Gopher plant
Causes of Gopher Purge Poisoning in Dogs
Gopher purge poisoning begins with the ingestion of the plant. The milky sap of the plant is quite toxic. Specific causes of toxicity include:
- The effect of phorbol esters
- The activation of protein kinase C, which alters protein and enzyme functioning
- The tissues and cells bind the phorbol esters, which can promote tumor formation
- Contain carcinogenic diterpenoids
- Cause cytoskeletal damage
Diagnosis of Gopher Purge Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has eaten gopher purge, it is important that he receives veterinary attention as soon as possible. Taking a piece of the plant in with you may help the physician make a rapid diagnosis. If you are unsure that your dog ingested the plant, the veterinarian will need to rely on his clinical signs in various test results to make a definitive diagnosis.
To begin, the veterinarian may want to test your dog’s vomit for any signs of the toxic substance. Inducing vomiting may be one of the first actions she takes. The physician will also perform various tests such as blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. These tests will allow the veterinarian to check protein and enzyme levels, as well as any soft tissue damage that may have occurred.
The veterinarian may also do a patch test if any of the sap came into contact with the fur, face, or skin of your dog. The veterinarian may also need to flush out the mouth or eyes if any of the toxic substance caused irritation.
Treatment of Gopher Purge Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment of gopher purge poisoning in dogs is symptomatic. Many dogs do not have serious or life-threatening poisoning due to the gopher purge; however, if your dog has ingested a large quantity of the plant, he may need more intense treatment. Treatment methods include:
The sap from gopher purge is very irritating to the skin and eyes. If your dog is showing irritation to the skin, eyes, or mouth area, the veterinarian will immediately flush out the areas to help with the irritation. In some cases, the veterinarian will need to apply an antihistamine ointment if your dog is having an exterior reaction.
It is very important to keep your dog hydrated, to encourage urination, and to help the kidneys flush out any of the poisoning. Enzyme and protein levels can be stabilized with plenty of fluids as well.
The induction of emesis allows the dog to get rid of any the stomach contents that contain the poisonous sap of the gopher purge plant. Emesis is normally followed by the administration of activated charcoal and can prevent the phorbol esters from being absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract.
The veterinarian will monitor your dog for any allergic reactions. If your dog suffers from any allergic reactions, he will be given an antihistamine. The veterinary team will give the dog time on the fluids and then perform any other tests to be sure he is recovering properly. The physician may want to monitor your dog overnight to be sure he is stable enough to eventually go home.
Recovery of Gopher Purge Poisoning in Dogs
Every dog is unique, and the recovery depends on the amount of gopher purge that was eaten and the time it took to receive proper treatment. In most cases, prognosis is good, but it is very important to monitor your dog when he comes home from the animal hospital. The veterinary team may recommend a gentle, bland diet if your dog suffered from any gastrointestinal tract issues. The staff will advise you on the best foods to feed him and will also recommend that he receives fresh water several times a day.
The veterinarian will want to see your pet again for visits to be sure he is becoming well. He may administer bloodwork and urinalysis to be sure everything looks satisfactory in terms of bodily functions. If you see any new symptoms when your dog is home with you, it will be important to contact your veterinarian just to be sure the dog is fine. In order to prevent poisoning from gopher purge or any other toxic plant, be sure to remove the plants from the home. If toxic plants are on the property, it is important to monitor your dog when he is outdoors to keep him away from the poisonous plants.