What is Hawaiian Ti Poisoning?
Hawaiian ti plants may be grown indoors as a potted plant that can grow up to eight feet. If you live in a warm climate, such as Asia, Australia, or Hawaii, you may find a Hawaiian ti growing outdoors where it can reach up to 12 feet tall. Small red or pink flowers that mature into red berries bloom in the spring if the plant is grown outdoors, but it rarely flowers if it is an indoor plant. The leaves are red or purple, which is what makes this such an attractive houseplant. In fact, these leaves are used in making hula skirts and other Hawaiian fashions. However, the saponin compound in the Hawaiian ti plant is dangerous to your pets and even to small children if they eat it. Side effects can range from mild to critical depending on the amount eaten and health of your dog.
The Hawaiian ti plant can be an indoor or outdoor plant, depending on the climate. But no matter where it is, be sure sure that your dog does not have access to it because there are toxins called saponins in the entire plant. Saponin toxicity is a mild to moderate condition in most cases, unless your dog is generally unhealthy or ate a large amount. Saponin is a glycoside that foams when it comes into contact with the fluids in your dog’s intestinal tract, causing irritation and inflammation. Your pet may vomit or have diarrhea that may be tinged with blood. If just a small amount was eaten and your dog is in good health, you should call the veterinarian and get a recommendation of what to do. However, if a large amount of the Hawaiian ti plant was consumed, take your dog to the emergency animal clinic or hospital right away.
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Symptoms of Hawaiian Ti Poisoning in Dogs
Due to the range of toxicities from plant to plant and the health of the dog, the side effects of Hawaiian ti poisoning can vary greatly. If your dog is in good health and only eats a small amount of the plant, chances are good that there may be no side effects at all. However, if your dog ate more than one bite of this toxic plant, you may see one or all of these symptoms:
- Coughing and gagging
- Vomiting (possibly bloody)
- Diarrhea (may also be bloody)
- Excessive drooling
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations or heartbeat irregularity
The Hawaiian ti plant is part of the Asparagaceae family in the subfamily of the Agavaceae (agave) family. Additional common names are:
- Cordyline fruticosa
- Cordyline terminalis
- Giant dracaena
- Snake plant
- Cabbage plant/palm
- Good luck plant/tree
- Green ti plant
- Palm lily
- Ti plant/tree
Causes of Hawaiian Ti Poisoning in Dogs
There are several saponins in the Hawaiian ti plant. Saponins are toxic compounds from steroid or terpenoid glycosides that foam when added to water. Detergents and fire extinguishers are two examples of how people use saponins. These toxins in various plants are used to repel insects and cause irritation to the intestinal tract among other side effects in dogs.
Diagnosis of Hawaiian Ti Poisoning in Dogs
A physical examination by a veterinary professional is necessary to make a positive diagnosis, so it is best to take your dog to a veterinary clinic or hospital for a checkup even if your pet has no symptoms. Bringing a sample or a photograph of the plant with you is also helpful and you should be prepared to give the veterinarian examining your dog all the details you know. Be sure to inform the staff if your dog is taking any medications or has had any recent illness or injury.
The physical examination will consist of your pet’s body temperature, weight, reflexes, blood pressure, heart rate, breath sounds, and coat condition. The veterinarian may also take a look at your dog’s eyes, ears, nose, and throat. She may decide to do an endoscopy to get a good look into your dog’s throat and airway. This procedure is done by inserting a long, thin tube into the throat while your dog is sedated. The endoscope has a lighted camera attached and can also remove any plant particles remaining in the throat and airway.
A number of laboratory tests will be performed such as a urinalysis, fecal examination, complete blood count (CBC), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), chemistry profile, lipids and liver panels, and a glucose level test. The veterinarian will also need images of the abdominal area to see the stomach, liver, and other areas unable to be seen with the endoscope. Radiographs (x-rays) and an abdominal ultrasound are normally used for this, but sometimes a CT scan or MRI may be needed as well.
Treatment of Hawaiian Ti Poisoning in Dogs
Veterinary professionals vary according to treatment for saponin toxicity, but the most common treatment consists of evacuation, fluids, and observation. Sometimes, medication or other procedures may be needed, but only in severe cases.
The veterinarian will use ipecac or peroxide to induce vomiting in your pet and then activated charcoal will be given orally to absorb the toxins that are still in the stomach. A gastric lavage may also be done to rinse away any remaining plant particles or toxins.
To flush the kidneys and rehydrate your dog’s system, intravenous (IV) fluids are administered. This is especially helpful if your pet is dehydrated.
Your veterinarian may decide to keep your dog on the IV for an hour or two for observation. However, in most cases, you are able to take your dog home right away and do the observation yourself at home.
Recovery of Hawaiian Ti Poisoning in Dogs
By the time you get home, your pet may be feeling better already, but you should provide a safe and comfortable area for resting. Make sure there is plenty of fresh water available, and follow your veterinarian’s recommendation on what you should feed your dog. Most often, a mild diet will be recommended for one to three days. As long as your pet did not eat a huge amount of Hawaiian ti plant, the recovery should be pretty fast and your dog will be back to normal in a day or two.
Call your veterinarian if you have any questions or if you are concerned your pet may not be healing properly. Remove the Hawaiian ti plant from your home or make sure it is out of the reach of your dog.