What is Jerusalem Oak Poisoning?
You may find this plant growing along roads, river valleys, mountains, meadows. It can grow up to three feet tall, with tiny leaves shaped like oak tree leaves. The whole plant has tiny hairs giving it a fuzzy look. During the summer and early fall, tiny yellow bell-shaped flowers bloom on tiny stems, giving off a very strong, but pleasant smell. Dogs tend to want to chew on everything they can, but since it has a nasty taste and furry leaves, a large amount is not usually consumed.
Jerusalem oak poisoning is a moderately toxic condition caused by the sesquiterpene lactones found throughout the plant. While these lactones have been used for anti-inflammatory, arthritic, and cancer medications in humans, they are not found to be safe for animals of any kind. The Jerusalem oak has an extremely bitter taste to it, so serious poisonings are not common. However, if your dog eats any part of a Jerusalem oak, you should call your veterinarian right away for an appointment.
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Symptoms of Jerusalem Oak Poisoning in Dogs
The signs that your dog has eaten part of a Jerusalem oak can range from a simple tummy ache to a serious case of gastrointestinal upset with weight loss.
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
The Jerusalem oak has two scientific names, which are chenopodium botrys and dysphania botrys. It is part of the Chenopodiaceae subfamily of the Amaranthaceae family. There are also several additional common names:
- Ambrosia mexicana
- Feather geranium
- Jerusalem oak goosefoot
- Sticky goosefoot
Causes of Jerusalem Oak Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of Jerusalem oak poisoning is the sesquiterpene lactones in the entire plant. While these substances are known in the medical world for their anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties, these toxins can cause intestinal upset in canines that may result in a hospital stay, though most cases of poisoning are mild.
Diagnosis of Jerusalem Oak Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian will want to know exactly what kind of plant your dog ingested, so try to bring in a sample or a photograph. She will also need to know how much your dog consumed and when it happened. It is also a good idea to bring your pet’s vaccination records and medical history, and be sure to tell the veterinarian if your dog is on any medications.
A complete physical examination will be done, including weight, reflexes, body temperature, blood pressure, breath sounds, and pulse rate. A urinalysis and stool sample may be taken at this time, as well as blood tests such as biochemistry profile and a complete blood count. Also, a packed cell volume (PCV) can be helpful in determining if your dog is dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting. Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) may also be done to check for obstructions or inflammation in the intestinal tract and stomach. Rarely, the veterinarian may want to get a better look with an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound.
Treatment of Jerusalem Oak Poisoning in Dogs
As with most poisonings, the veterinarian will first want to get all the toxic substances out of your dog’s system. This is done by evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation.
To instigate emesis (vomiting), the veterinarian will give your pet ipecac or a hydrogen peroxide solution. If this does not produce any vomitus, it may be repeated in 20 minutes, but only once. Activated charcoal will then be given by mouth to absorb any toxins that have not been absorbed by the body.
Intravenous (IV) fluids will flush the kidneys of any lingering toxins. This step also helps prevent dehydration. In some cases, the veterinarian may decide to perform a gastric lavage. This procedure is done by inserting an esophageal tube through the mouth and into the intestinal tract. Then the veterinarian will gently pump warm water through the hose to rinse away any remaining plant particles and toxins.
With Jerusalem oak poisoning there is usually no need for medication. However, if your dog has been vomiting a lot, the veterinarian may give antiemetic medication and antacids to settle the stomach.
There is usually no need to admit your dog for observation since this is a mild toxin. You will probably be able to take your pet home in an hour or whenever your veterinarian feels your dog is rehydrated enough.
Recovery of Jerusalem Oak Poisoning in Dogs
Your dog’s prognosis from Jerusalem oak poisoning is excellent. In fact, the veterinarian will probably send you home within about an hour or two; just long enough for your pet to be rehydrated, if necessary. However, in rare cases, Jerusalem oak poisoning may be serious enough to warrant an overnight stay in the hospital, especially if your dog is older or in poor health. Once your dog is home, monitor eating, drinking, and urinating habits for about 2-3 days and report any abnormalities to your veterinarian.