What is Kaffir Lily Poisoning?
Kaffir lilies are tropical plants grown in South Africa and Swaziland, but have been cultivated to be grown in the southern and western United States so they have started to become a more common threat to dogs in these areas. In other areas of the United States, the kaffir lily is grown as a houseplant, which can make them even more dangerous to your indoor animals. If you are considering getting a kaffir lily, you should be sure it is well out of your dog’s reach at all times. The bulb is the most dangerous part of the plant, so be sure not to leave them out where your dog can get them and fence off areas outdoors where lilies are planted. Dogs are known for digging up bulbs to eat them.
The kaffir lily is not a true lily because it is not part of the lilium and hemerocallis family, but it contains lycorine and alkaloids so eating them can cause mild to moderate symptoms in your dog. Even though kidney failure is not a problem with this lily, there are some dangerous side effects of the kaffir lily, which are low blood pressure and heart rhythm imbalance. Milder symptoms are gastric irritation, diarrhea vomiting, and excessive drooling. The roots (bulbs) and the fruits (berries) of the kaffir lily are especially toxic, containing the most concentrated amount of the lycorine and other alkaloids.
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Symptoms of Kaffir Lily Poisoning in Dogs
- Arrhythmia (fast heartbeat)
- Cardiac rhythm abnormalities
- Excessive drooling
- Low blood pressure
The kaffir lily (clivia miniata) is a flowering species of the Cliva genus in the asparagales order of the Amaryllidaceae family. This gorgeous plant can grow up to almost two feet tall in the right conditions, with dark green glossy leaves and yellow, orange, or red clumps of large flowers. The common nicknames of the kaffir lily are:
- Bush lily
- Clivia lily
- Clivia miniata
- Fire lily
- St John’s lily
Causes of Kaffir Lily Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of poisoning in the kaffir lily are the lycorine and other alkaloids, which cause irritation to the skin and intestinal system as well as cardiac symptoms if a large amount is eaten.
Diagnosis of Kaffir Lily Poisoning in Dogs
Bring part of the plant with you so the veterinarian can tell exactly what type of lily your dog ate or came into contact with. Inform your veterinarian as much as you know about when it happened, how much and what part of the lily your dog ate. This will help speed up the diagnosis, and the faster the diagnosis, the sooner treatment can get done. Your dog’s medical history is also important to your dog’s diagnosis and treatment, so give the veterinarian any medical records you have. You should also inform the team of medications taken, health conditions, abnormal behavior, vaccination records, age, and if you have noticed a change in appetite or other symptoms.
The veterinarian will start by doing a physical examination of your dog including body temperature, reflexes, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, respirations, lung sounds, and inspection of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Laboratory tests will be conducted next, such as electrolyte levels, blood gases, biochemistry panel, complete blood count (CBC), and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels. The veterinarian can also perform an endoscopy by inserting a flexible tube with an attached camera into your dog’s throat to get a good view of the upper respiratory system. Your dog will be anesthetized and have oxygen and IV fluids administered during the procedure. Radiographs (x-rays) will also be done to get a good view your dog’s intestinal tract and stomach. Additionally, an ultrasound will be used to check the size of the kidneys and evaluate any damage. In some cases, your veterinarian may use an MRI or CT scan to get a more detailed look of the kidneys or other internal organs.
Treatment of Kaffir Lily Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will induce vomiting and perform a gastric lavage with activated charcoal to rid the body of any toxins. Intravenous (IV) fluids will be administered for about 12 to 24 hours, depending on the symptoms your dog has shown. For topical exposure, the veterinarian will wash the area with warm, soapy water and apply anti-itch and antibiotic creams.
Recovery of Kaffir Lily Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is treated within the first 24 hours, the prognosis is good. In the case of topical exposure, your veterinarian may decide to continue steroid treatment for several weeks depending on how well it is working.
Make sure you get rid of any kaffir lilies or bulbs from anywhere your dog may be able to reach. If you go to a park or any other public place, be sure to keep your eye on wherever your dog goes in case there are poisonous plants around, such as lilies. If you have any questions or concerns, call your veterinarian right away.