What is Jonquil Poisoning?
Narcissus jonquilla is a species of daffodil that is native to Spain and Portugal and grows well in more southern climates. The leaves are rounded, stems are hollow, and the plant has clusters of small, fragrant, daffodil-like flowers. The American Daffodil Society defines jonquil as referring only to daffodil varieties in Division 7 or Division 13, but the name is often used to refer to any type of yellow daffodil plant. Both daffodil and jonquil contain lycorine and other alkaloids that make them toxic to dogs, as well as humans. Historically, daffodil consumption has been associated with suicide attempts in humans. Eating stems or leaves causes vomiting and diarrhea, while cardiac arrhythmia, convulsions, and paralysis are possible with high doses. The bulbs are the most toxic part of the plant, resulting in instances of fatal human poisoning when they were mistakenly cooked and eaten instead of leeks. Animals are less likely to ingest large quantities of jonquil, but dogs that dig up and eat bulbs could be at risk.
Dogs that like to eat large quantities of greenery are also more likely to have a problem, especially since daffodils come up in early spring when there aren’t many other plants growing. Daffodils and jonquils also contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause dermatitis on topical contact. This has been remarked in florist shops where workers handle large numbers of daffodils. It could be a problem if your dog is short haired, or in areas where the skin is exposed like the nose and muzzle.
Jonquil is a variety of daffodil that is especially fragrant and more common in southern temperate climates. Jonquil and other daffodil species are toxic to dogs and humans. Ingestion of a small amount causes gastrointestinal upset. Large doses have severe symptoms and can even be fatal.
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Symptoms of Jonquil Poisoning in Dogs
These are the symptoms you may see if your dog eats jonquil. The bulbs are likely to produce more severe symptoms than other parts of the plant.
- Oral irritation
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Skin irritation
These are the two plants most likely to be referred to as jonquil:
- Narcissus jonquilla is the official jonquil species with rounded leaves, clusters of yellow flowers, especially fragrant smell
- Narcissus pseudonarcissus is the traditional daffodil species, and could be referred to as jonquil; it has narrow pointed leaves, with a single flower on a head
From a toxicity level, it’s not necessary to distinguish between species. Both types can cause severe symptoms and even death if consumed in large enough quantities.
Causes of Jonquil Poisoning in Dogs
These are some risk factors for jonquil poisoning.
- Jonquil growing around the house especially when few other plants are available
- Cut jonquil flower decoration within reach
- Dogs that chew on leaves and flowers as a habit will be a risk
- Dogs that dig up and eat bulbs often consume without concern
- More common in springtime
Diagnosis of Jonquil Poisoning in Dogs
Diagnosis of jonquil poisoning will be based on symptoms and a history of ingestion. If you saw your dog eat the plant, this will be the best way of diagnosing the condition. Non-specific symptoms of toxicity could indicate jonquil poisoning at certain times of the year. If you find a lot of chewed jonquil flowers or stems in your garden, this should also be a cause for concern.
If your dog eats a non-food plant, it’s always a good idea to call a poison helpline and ask for advice. This is especially important with plants like jonquil and daffodil that can be fatal in high doses. The agent will want to know what part of the plant and how much was eaten as well as the size and weight of your dog. Try to get veterinary treatment as soon as possible. Bring a sample of the plant with you for identification. The veterinarian will be able to help confirm if your dog’s symptoms are related to jonquil poisoning or another type of toxicity.
Treatment of Jonquil Poisoning in Dogs
Remove any plant material from your dog’s mouth and rinse it with warm water. Give your dog milk or water to drink if possible. Don’t induce vomiting unless recommended by a professional.
Veterinary treatment is important, especially if you have a small dog or a large amount was ingested. The veterinary will induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage if the poisoning took place within the last few hours. Activated charcoal will be given to reduce absorption. Medication may be given to coat the stomach lining and reduce gastrointestinal irritation. Intravenous fluids and electrolytes could be necessary to prevent dehydration in severe cases. The veterinarian will monitor heart rhythms and adjust medication levels until the toxins are excreted from the body.
Skin irritation or dermatitis from jonquil contact doesn’t usually require treatment. If symptoms are very severe, the veterinarian could prescribe topical creams or ointment to reduce the inflammation.
Recovery of Jonquil Poisoning in Dogs
Most dogs naturally avoid jonquil, so poisoning isn’t a common problem. Recovery is likely with mild cases. Large doses can be fatal however, so this is best evaluated by a veterinarian.
To manage the condition, avoid having bunches of cut jonquil or daffodils in your house. Instead, grow indoor wheat grass so that your dog will have something green to munch on in the early spring when he may be tempted to eat jonquil leaves. Discourage your dog from digging in the garden as much as possible. Have a plan for emergency veterinary treatment if your dog starts to show symptoms of poisoning, whether it’s from jonquil or another source.