What is Jimson Weed Poisoning?
Jimson weed, also known as devil’s snare or devil’s trumpet, is native to Mexico and has been naturalized in many other regions. The scientific name for this plant is Datura stramonium. It is found in the United States from New England to Florida, and as far west as Texas. D. stramonium is part of a genus of toxic Datura plants that belong to the nightshade family. Jimson weed grows in cultivated fields, grazing lands, and empty lots. The plant is between 2 and 5 feet (0.6-1.5 meters) tall with spreading branches and large serrated leaves. The white flowers are 2-4 inches (5-10 centimeters) long and tube shaped. The seeds are contained in prickly burr-like capsules. Toxic tropane alkaloids are found in all parts of the plants and can cause fatal anticholinergic poisoning if ingested in high enough doses. D. stramonium is known for a mass poisoning that took place in colonial Jamestown in 1679, accounting for one of its many common names, Jamestown weed.
Poisoning in animals is rare. The plant has an unattractive odor and the leaves are bitter when ingested; however there are recorded cases of fatal poisoning in dogs after eating Jimson weed seeds. Symptoms of anxiety, dilated pupils, and a fast pulse begin within an hour after ingestion. The toxins inhibit nerve and muscle reactions throughout the body including the involuntary digestive system, the eyes, and the brain. Animals will become uncoordinated and be unable to control their movements. They may seem excited and delirious. Symptoms typically last for 24-48 hours. In severe cases, paralysis of the circulatory and respiratory system will result in death. Prompt veterinary treatment can usually be effective.
Jimson weed is one of the highly toxic plants found in eastern United States. Powerful hallucinogenic alkaloids have been known to cause fatal poisoning in both humans and animals.
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Symptoms of Jimson Weed Poisoning in Dogs
These are the symptoms you may see if your dog ingests Jimson weed.
- Dilated pupils (mydriasis)
- Rapid pulse (tachycardia)
- Behavior changes
- Increased drinking (polydipsia)
- Increased breathing rate (tachypnea)
- Retention of urine
- Lack of coordination
- Inability to stand or walk
- Low body temperature
Several types of toxic Datura plants can be called Jimson weed.
- The plant most commonly referred to as Jimson Weed
- Also called devil’s snare, thorn apple, moonflower, hells bells, devil’s weed, devil’s cucumber, Tolguacha, Jamestown weed, stinkweed and pricklyburr
- Found in the eastern United States
- Found in northern Mexico and southern United States and sometimes called Western Jimson weed, as well as sacred datura and Indian whisky
- It resembles D. stramonium
- Toxic symptoms after ingestion are also similar
Causes of Jimson Weed Poisoning in Dogs
There are some of the risk factors for Jimson weed poisoning.
- Jimson weed growing around your house contain toxic tropane alkaloids
- Jimson weed growing where you walk your dog because it grows easily in cultivated fields, grazing lands, and empty lots
- Dogs that like to chew on leaves and seeds may find it tempting despite the taste
- Small dogs can be poisoned with a little amount
Diagnosis of Jimson Weed Poisoning in Dogs
Seeing your dog ingest Jimson weed is the best method of diagnosis. You may also find remnants of leaves or burs in the mouth. Symptoms of toxicity typically begin about 30 minutes after ingestion. A veterinarian may be able to recognize the symptoms of antichlorotic poisoning, but this will be much easier if you know your dog was exposed to the plant.
If your dog has eaten an unknown plant, call an emergency veterinary clinic or a poison helpline and ask for advice. Describe the plant exactly as well as your dog’s symptoms. The agent will want to know how much was eaten, as well as the size and weight of your dog. Be prepared to go to the clinic as ingestion of a potentially toxic plant must always be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Treatment of Jimson Weed Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has eaten Jimson weed, remove any plant material from the mouth and rinse it with warm water. Try to keep your dog comfortable and prevent injury from weakness and uncoordinated movements. Veterinary treatment will be needed as soon as possible. If you are able, bring a sample of the plant with you for accurate identification. Avoid touching it with your bare hands especially if you have cuts or scrapes.
With recent poisoning, the veterinarian may try to eliminate the plant material by inducing vomiting or gastric lavage. Activated charcoal may also be given to help reduce absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Other treatments will focus on the symptoms. Fluids, electrolytes, and additional oxygen can help support your dog’s system until the toxins are excreted. The veterinarian may insert a tube down your dog’s throat to assist with breathing. A catheter tube may be necessary since Jimson weed can cause urinary retention. Physostigmine is administered as an antidote to anticholinergic poisoning in a severe cases.
Recovery of Jimson Weed Poisoning in Dogs
Dogs usually recover from Jimson weed poisoning with a prompt diagnosis and proper treatment. However symptoms develop quickly and fatal complications are possible. It’s important to recognize the plant and get treatment as soon as possible for the best chance of recovery.
To manage the problem, identify Jimson weed and look for areas where it is growing close to your house, or in places where you normally walk your dog. Keep your dog on a leash anytime you are close to a Jimson weed patch. Ensure your dog has a good diet so he will be less likely to chew on seeds and leaves. If possible, try to train your dog to avoid this plant.
Jimson Weed Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 5 month old puppy ate jimson weed & he was throwing up a lot & was foaming from the mouth. He was very anxious & uncoordinated & problems breathing. He is better now, but should we still take him to the ER?
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