What is Heavenly Bamboo Poisoning?
Heavenly bamboo, or nandina, is a shrub which is often used in landscaping. It can be found in parks, yards, on business property, and other commercial properties and campuses in many parts of the United States. It is widely used, as it is very hearty and quite beautiful. The deep green foliage contrasts against the dark red berries, and it mixes in and complements any flower or shrub garden.
Nandina can be very toxic to your dog or other pet. The red berries within the shrub appear welcoming and tasty; however, eating the berries, leaves, and stems can cause poisoning. The reason for this is that the shrub and all of its parts contain natural defenses known as cyanogenic glycosides. Cyanogenic glycoside, often referred to as cyanide, occurs in over 2000 different species of plants. It is quite effective in protecting the plant or shrub from being eaten by birds or other pests. This toxic compound can kill small rodents, and if dogs consume a large portion, it can be life-threatening to them as well.
Heavenly bamboo poisoning in dogs is the result of dogs consuming and swallowing heavenly bamboo, or nandina. Heavenly bamboo contains cyanogenic glycoside, and when eaten can cause cyanide poisoning.
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Symptoms of Heavenly Bamboo Poisoning in Dogs
Cyanide poisoning from eating heavenly bamboo can cause serious symptoms, depending on how much was consumed. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include:
- Darker mucus membranes
- Pain in the abdomen
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Failure of the respiratory system
- Difficulty breathing
If you have a plant in your yard which you suspect may be bamboo, keep in mind that heavenly bamboo comes in a variety of names. Alternate names for this toxic plant are:
- Sacred bamboo
- Nandina domestica
- Nanten (Japanese name)
Causes of Heavenly Bamboo Poisoning in Dogs
Causes of heavenly bamboo poisoning are directly related to the chemical compound that is within the plant. Specific causes of heavenly bamboo poisoning include:
- Cyanogenic glycosides breakdown and emit hydrogen cyanide
- Enzymatic hydrolysis and the liquid within the plant tissues allows this to naturally occur
- Aerobic metabolism failure
- Histotoxic anoxia
- Lack of adequate oxygen in the tissues
Diagnosis of Heavenly Bamboo Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian is trained to look at a dog’s clinical signs and history of ingesting a poisonous plant and be able to determine the diagnosis of cyanide poisoning. Once you tell your veterinarian the symptoms your dog is having and the history of the heavenly bamboo, the veterinarian will begin treatment as soon as possible.
He may take bloodwork, urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile to further aid him in the diagnosis and treatment methods. If the veterinarian chooses to take contents from the stomach to test for hydrogen cyanide, he will wear protective gear to protect himself and staff from the cyanide gas. He may also take specimens from the dog’s tissues, his muscles, and the liver. The physician will also rely on the blood test to show him how much cyanide is within the blood stream; cyanide levels above 3 mcg /mL will be of concern to the veterinarian.
In order to collect fluid from the stomach, the veterinarian may use a tube to compress the stomach and remove any of the content. This process is called gastric trocarization, and once the tube is inserted the veterinarian will need to wear safety gear to protect against the gases in the cyanide. Oxygen will be given to your dog during this procedure, and the veterinarian may determine if your dog will need to have anesthesia during this procedure as well.
Treatment of Heavenly Bamboo Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment will begin as soon as possible in order to prohibit any further bonding of this toxic compound. Treatment methods for heavenly bamboo poisoning include:
IV Fluids and Medications
An iron compound, Fe3+, within the hemoglobin is given to serve as a decoy receptor for the cyanide. This effectively forms cyanmethemoglobin. Adding nitrates to the IV fluids, in addition to inhaling amyl nitrates, are antidotes for the poisoning of cyanide. Sodium nitrate is also quite effective in controlling cyanide poisoning and helping the dog become stable. In addition, sodium thiosulfate helps cells in converting the cyanide into a certain type that can be removed through urination.
Rhodanese, otherwise known as rhodanase or thiosulfate sulfertransferase, may also be administered for detoxification. This mitochondrial enzyme is quite effective in detoxifying cyanide, as it converts the toxic compound to thiocyanate. DMAP, or 4-dimethylaminophenol, and hydroxylamine hydrochloride are also effective in reversing the lethal toxicity of cyanide.
Recovery of Heavenly Bamboo Poisoning in Dogs
Poisoning from heavenly bamboo can be quite serious, but if swift treatment is begun, the prognosis may be guarded to fair. This depends heavily on the levels of cyanide within the dog and the time it took to receive treatment. Cyanide overdose can be lethal, and if your dog has responded to treatment, the veterinarian will want to keep him in the hospital for a few days to monitor his system.
If you are able to bring your dog home, it will be very important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions on how to care for your dog, as he is still recovering even when he is at home. It will be important to watch for any symptoms that may develop and to tell your veterinarian if you are concerned.
Your medical professional will want to see him again for follow-up visits and will run tests to be sure your loved one is recovering properly. In order to prevent toxicity from reoccurring, it is recommended that heavenly bamboo or other toxic plants are removed from the home, yard, or garden area, or to carefully monitor your dog when he is outside.