What is Iris Poisoning?
The iris plant is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and gives off an aromatic fragrance, two qualities why people enjoy having this plant in or around their homes. However, if your dog chews on the iris or ingests a part of it, he can become very ill and will need to be taken to the veterinarian immediately. Depending on the amount and the part of the iris consumed, symptoms may develop quickly or over a period of several hours. If veterinary care is not sought out, consequences can be dire.
The iris is a flower with a rich history and unique appearance. It can be found as a native flower in the wild and is also found planted in many gardens and homes. If ingested by your dog, the iris can cause symptoms of toxicity and veterinary attention should be sought out immediately.
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Symptoms of Iris Poisoning in Dogs
The part of the plant and the amount your dog ingests will determine the onset of toxicity symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- GI ulceration
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Burn-like sores on lips or muzzle
It is a common development for blood to appear in your dog’s vomit or stool if it is occurring excessively or without pause.
There are over 200 species of Iris plants in the family Iridaceae. The iris was used as a symbol of monarchs and royalty and is represented by the commonly known symbol of “Fleur de Lys”. The iris comes in a variety of colors and varies slightly in appearance, but all of the species are toxic to dogs if ingested. The iris also goes by the common names snake lily, yellow water iris, yellow flag, western blue flag, Douglas’s flag, and water flag.
Causes of Iris Poisoning in Dogs
The toxic compounds in the iris plant are resinous purgative irisin and cytotoxic terpenoids. The exact function of the toxin in the iris flower is still unknown, but scientists believe it contains ribosome inactivating proteins (RIPs) that interfere with RNA and protein synthesis. The disruption of the cell’s normal pathway usually leads to cell death. The highest concentration of toxin in the iris is believed to be in the bulb, however, the roots and leaves are also toxic if ingested.
Diagnosis of Iris Poisoning in Dogs
When you arrive at the veterinarian’s office, they will begin by performing a physical examination on your dog. This will allow the veterinarian to assess vitals and note any symptoms your dog is experiencing. If your dog is having soft stool or diarrhea, the veterinarian may perform a fecal analysis to rule out internal parasites. A urinalysis will also be run to evaluate kidney function and to check for blood in the urine.
Blood work will include a complete blood count (CBC), a chemistry panel, and a packed cell volume (PCV). The CBC and chemistry panel will provide a broad basis of how your dog’s internal organs are functioning. The PCV will show if your dog is dehydrated, and if so, by how much.
If your dog is drooling excessively or displaying other symptoms of oral pain, the veterinarian will take special care when examining his mouth to note any abnormalities. If you are unsure what plant your dog ingested, take a piece of it to the veterinarian’s office with you. This will allow for quicker diagnosis and therefore quicker implementation of corrective therapies.
Treatment of Iris Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of iris poisoning your dog is suffering will determine the course of treatment. Since the iris plant causes gastrointestinal upset, your veterinarian may try to induce vomiting in your dog. If too much time has passed since the ingestion of the iris plant, your veterinarian may administer activated charcoal. This will bind with and absorb any remainder toxin that has not been absorbed by the body. Additional medications to protect the intestinal lining may also be administered.
With profuse vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration is a common result. Fluid therapy with electrolytes will be started to help correct any dehydration your dog is experiencing and to prevent it from worsening.
If your dog is experiencing eye, skin, or mouth irritation, the veterinarian will attempt to flush any remaining toxin from the affected area. Eye health can deteriorate in a matter of hours; the sooner your dog receives proper medical attention, the higher his chances of retaining full function of his eyes.
Recovery of Iris Poisoning in Dogs
Toxicity from the iris plant may be considered mild to moderate or moderate to severe. The severity of the toxicity will be determined by which part of the iris plant and the amount your dog consumed. If your dog does not receive veterinary attention, his chance for a full recovery declines. The toxin can cause severe damage to your dog’s gastrointestinal tract which can lead to prolonged healing, loss of appetite, inability to absorb nutrients from his food, or even necrosis of a part of the digestive system. There is no way to heal necrotic tissue in the gastrointestinal tract; your dog would have to undergo surgery for removal of the necrotic section.
Your dog may be kept in the hospital until all symptoms subside and all of his laboratory work comes back normal. To prevent any of this from happening, educate yourself on what plants you bring in and around your home. Since the iris flower is also a wildflower in many regions, do not let your pet stop and chew on unknown plants when out for walks. If you have this plant in your garden, be sure your dog cannot get to it. If you have it indoors, keep it at a height your dog cannot reach. Even the most well behaved dogs get curious.
Iris Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My son has a German Shepard that has had diarrhea for months. We believe that at one time she chewed up and swollowed up most of a basket ball that she used to play with but now I'm wondering if she ate some iris in my flower garden that has poisioned her. My son is 52 yrs old and has a heart problem that keeps him from being able to get a full time job and if his heart is acting up he can't even do the jobs that he can get. Is there anything that is a natural remedy that we can give to the dog that will help her if if it is poisoning or to help her pass any blockage of basket ball if that is the problem?
Treatment is usually centered around a definitive diagnosis as different conditions have different treatments; long term diarrhoea with blood may be attributable to a foreign body, but after this amount of time I would imagine that other symptoms of intestinal blockage or loss of appetite would have shown. Iris poisoning may cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but would require regular exposure to have this level of chronic diarrhoea. It is likely that there is a chronic infection of the gastrointestinal tract which would require antibiotics prescribed by your Veterinarian as there is occasionally blood present in the diarrhoea; regardless of your son’s financial and health situation, it would be irresponsible for me not to recommend that you get Baby checked by a Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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