What is Hyacinth Poisoning?
The hyacinth is a gorgeous addition to any garden and returns with even more blooms every year with little to no care. Many people also keep them as potted plants indoors too, but it is extremely important that you keep it away from your dog and other pets. As a matter of fact, it can affect humans as well and you should always wear gloves when handling the bulb and flowers. Breathing in the dust from the hyacinth bulbs can also cause irritation to the lungs and trigger an asthma attack in some people.
The most common way that dogs are affected by hyacinth poisoning is by digging up bulbs from the garden after they are recently planted, or by getting into the bulbs in your house. Although the entire plant is poisonous, it is the bulbs that hold the highest concentration of the toxic calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are actually shaped like needles that pierce the soft skin of the mouth and intestines when consumed by your dog. The result is usually instantaneous pain, which typically stops dogs from eating a toxic amount, but the swelling caused by the crystals can cause asphyxiation or severe intestinal damage if not treated. Whether symptoms are present or not, if you believe your dog ate any part of a hyacinth, especially a bulb, you should call your veterinarian or see a veterinary specialist as soon as possible.
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Symptoms of Hyacinth Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of hyacinth poisoning depend on what part of the plant your dog eats and how much of it was consumed. It is usually dependent on whether it is the bulb or the flower that is consumed, how much your dog eats, and your dog’s general health. The symptoms are different depending on whether it is oral (ingestion), inhalation, or topical (skin) exposure. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal breathing
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Increased heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Shortness of breath from pulmonary edema
The scientific name of hyacinth is Hyacinthus, which is in the asparagaceae family, subfamily Scilloideae, order of the asparagales. Some of the common names and other scientific names are:
- Common hyacinth
- Dutch hyacinth
- Garden hyacinth
- Hyacinthus litwinovii
- Hyacinthus orientalis
- Hyacinthus transcaspicus
Causes of Hyacinth Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of hyacinth poisoning is the ingestion or exposure to any part of the plant, including the flowers, stems, leaves, and bulbs. The bulbs have the highest concentration of the calcium oxalate crystals. Some of the ways your dog may come into contact with the hyacinth are:
- Digging up bulbs
- Eating or contact with flower, stems, or leaves
- Eating or contact with bulbs
Diagnosis of Hyacinth Poisoning in Dogs
Bring part of the plant with you so the veterinarian can tell exactly what type of hyacinth your dog ate or came into contact with. If your dog is having trouble breathing, the veterinarian will administer oxygen through a cannula, which is a tube through the nose. In addition, IV fluids will be started to reduce dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting. Inform your veterinarian as much as you know about when it happened, how much and what part of the hyacinth your dog consumed. This will help speed up the diagnosis, and the faster the diagnosis, the sooner treatment can be started. Your dog’s medical history is also essential to your dog’s diagnosis and treatment, so be sure to let your veterinarian know whether your dog has been ill or injured lately, what immunizations he has had, breed, age, and any strange behavior or appetite you have noticed recently.
The veterinarian will start by doing a physical examination of your dog including physical appearance, weight, reflexes, body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respirations, lung sounds, and inspection of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Laboratory tests will be conducted next, such as electrolyte levels, blood gases, biochemistry panel, complete blood count (CBC), and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels.
The veterinarian can also perform an endoscopy by inserting a flexible tube with an attached camera into your dog’s throat to get a good view of the upper respiratory system. Your dog will be anesthetized and have oxygen and IV fluids administered during the procedure. Radiographs (x-rays) will also be done to get a good view your dog’s intestinal tract and stomach. Additionally, an ultrasound will be used to check the size of the kidneys and evaluate any damage. In some cases, your veterinarian may use an MRI or CT scan to get a more detailed look of the kidneys or other internal organs.
Treatment of Hyacinth Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will induce vomiting and perform a gastric lavage with activated charcoal to rid the body of any toxins. Intravenous fluids will be continued for about 12 to 24 hours, depending on the level of symptoms, and may include anti-nausea medication and gastroprotectants. For topical exposure, the veterinarian will wash the area with warm, soapy water and apply anti-itch and antibiotic creams. Inhalation exposure can be dangerous if your dog has inhaled a large amount of dust from the bulbs. Your veterinarian will keep your dog on oxygen for at least 24 hours and treat him with an oral or inhaled steroid, such as albuterol.
Recovery of Hyacinth Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is treated within the first 24 hours, the prognosis is good. In the case of inhalation exposure, your veterinarian may decide to continue steroid treatment for several weeks or months, depending on the damage to your dog’s lungs. Make sure you get rid of any hyacinth or bulbs from anywhere your dog may be able to get to. If you go to a park or any other public place, be sure to keep your eye on wherever your dog goes in case there are poisonous plants such as hyacinths. Call your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions about the recovery of your canine companion.
Hyacinth Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog just chewed the stem of a hyacinth plant. The bulb is in soil so he did not get the bulb. He is still very alert and acting himself. No nausea or vomiting. He is still eating and his stool is not runny. Should I just watch him for now ?
The whole plant is poisonous (but more concentrated in the bulb); it is better to induce vomiting using 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and to wash his mouth out afterwards, only if he ate within the past two hours. However, in cases of poisoning, I always recommend visiting a Veterinarian for preventative care. Symptoms are usually mild but if you notice an increase in the heart rate, breathing rate or difficulty in breathing, visit your Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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