What is Jessamine Poisoning?
Jessamine poisoning could refer to one of two common species, both of which can be highly toxic to dogs and also humans. Yellow or Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a sub-tropical vine with yellow trumpet shaped flowers. It is native to Central America and the Caribbean, but it also grows well in the southeastern United States, where it is often trained to cover garden arbors and stone walls. Other common names include evening trumpet, gelsemium, and woodbine. Yellow jessamine is the state flower of South Carolina. All parts of the plant contain a toxic alkaloid called gelsemium. Children have been poisoned by sucking nectar from the flowers, which appear similar to honeysuckle, and dogs that eat any part of the plant are also at risk. Muscle weakness and paralysis are the first signs but these can be followed by seizures, difficulty breathing, and death in severe cases.
Night-blooming and day-blooming jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum and diurnum respectively) belong to the Solanaceae family, the same group as nightshade and many other toxic plants. These evergreen shrubs are also native to the Caribbean Islands, but they are grown in other parts of the world. Both have small white flowers, although there is one variety of C. nocturnum with yellowish blooms.
Night blooming jessamine or jasmine is common in Southeastern United states where it is known for producing a sweet, almost overpowering, smell at night. The berries and sap of the plant are toxic and there are instances of fatal poisoning in children and dogs. Severe gastrointestinal upset is the most common symptom, but CNS symptoms are also possible since the plant can contain some of the same toxic alkaloids as nightshade. Consumption has also been associated with D3 toxicity (similar to cholecalciferol-based rat poisoning) which results in calcium and phosphate deposits throughout the body. Long-term consumption can lead to increased bone density and problems with the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
Jessamine comes from “yasmin,” an Arabic word for fragrant flower. It is a common name for several different plant species, and it is also often used as a variant form of jasmine. Yellow jessamine and night or day-blooming jessamine are two unrelated plants that are both extremely toxic. Fatal poisoning is possible, so these plants should be handled with caution around dogs and children.
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Symptoms of Jessamine Poisoning in Dogs
These are the symptoms you may see if your dog ingests either of these plants.
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Decreased respiratory rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Vision loss
Night-Blooming and Day-Blooming Jessamine
- Poor appetite (anorexia)
- Weight loss
- Increased pulse
- Tremors and gait abnormality
- Hormone imbalances (chronic)
- Increased bone density (chronic)
Jessamine and jasmine are common plant names that are sometimes used interchangeably. These are some of the many species that could be referred to by these names.
- Gelsemium sempervirens (Yellow jessamine, Yellow jasmine, Carolina jessamine, Carolina jasmine, evening trumpet flower, gelsemium, woodbine) – a climbing vine with trumpet shaped yellow flowers that bloom from December to March, all parts of the plant, including the flower nectar, are poisonous
- Cestrum nocturnum (Night-blooming jessamine, Night-blooming jasmine, lady of the night, queen of night, night-blooming cestrum) – a woody evergreen shrub that can grow up to 13 feet (4 meters) tall, small greenish white or yellowish flowers and purple berries in which the berries and sap are poisonous
- Cestrum diurnum (day-blooming jessamine, day-blooming jasmine, day-blooming cestrum, din ka raja, king of the day) – an evergreen shrub with clusters of white flowers and blackberries, berries and sap are poisonous
- Jasmine – usually refers to members of the Jasminum genus, a group of flowering shrubs and vines belonging to the same family as olives, plants in this genus aren’t generally toxic; in China, the flowers are traditionally used to make Jasmine tea
Causes of Jessamine Poisoning in Dogs
These are some of the risk factors for Jessamine poisoning.
- Yellow jessamine growing in your garden
- Night-blooming or day blooming jessamine growing in your garden
- Living in a warmer climate zone
- Dogs that tend to eat plants
- Smaller dogs
Diagnosis of Jessamine Poisoning in Dogs
Diagnosis of jessamine poisoning will be based on a history of ingestion and potential exposure. If you didn’t see your dog eat the plant, finding chewed leaves or flowers in the mouth can be a good indication. Sudden symptoms of toxicity should make dog owners consider these plants if they are known to be growing nearby.
Call a poison helpline and/or get veterinary treatment as soon as possible. Describe the plant exactly and bring a sample for identification if possible. Store the sample in a sealed container and wash your hands after touching the plant. The veterinarian will help confirm whether your dog’s symptoms correspond with the toxins in the plant. Blood tests may also be taken to determine the level of toxicity. Non-symptomatic dogs that are consistently eating a small amount of Cestrum species may also have increased calcium levels on a blood test taken for another purpose.
Treatment of Jessamine Poisoning in Dogs
As immediate first aid, you should remove any plant material from your dog’s mouth and gently rinse it with water. Try to get your dog to drink milk or water if you can. Don’t induce vomiting unless it’s specifically recommended by a veterinarian or professional poison helpline agent. Keep your dog as comfortable as possible during transportation to the veterinarian.
With recent poisoning, the veterinarian may induce vomiting. If a large amount was ingested, gastric lavage may be performed through a tube in the throat. Activated charcoal is frequently given to help reduce absorption. Cathartic or diuretic medication can also help move the toxins through your dog’s body faster. Intravenous fluids and electrolytes will help to prevent dehydration and balance metabolic levels. Other medications may be given to treat seizures and CNS symptoms.
Recovery of Jessamine Poisoning in Dogs
Recovery will depend on the amount that was ingested and the size of your dog. Immediate treatment will greatly increase the chances of recovery. Most dogs don’t die from jessamine poisoning, but fatalities are possible and toxicity levels can vary even among individual plants in the same species.
Try to train your dog to avoid these plants. Remove them from your yard if they are present there. Plant wheat grass and encourage your dog to chew on this rather than toxic leaves or flowers. Check garden plants regularly for missing leaves and signs of chewing and have a plan in place for emergency treatment if necessary. If guests visit your house with children or other dogs, it’s also a good idea to warn them about toxic plants in your garden.