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The kiss-me-quick plant can grow up to 10 feet tall in its native land of Brazil, but the cultivated kind grown in the United States rarely grows over 6 feet tall. The most unique thing about the kiss-me-quick plant is that it blooms almost year round and the flowers change color as the season progresses. One type (royal purple brunfelsia) starts out with deep purple blooms that gradually fade from light purple to white, so that the plant itself has all 3 colors all year long. Another unique thing about the kiss-me-quick plant is that it only blooms at night and early morning. Although the kiss-me-quick plant is sometimes used as an herbal medication in Brazil, the entire plant is known to be toxic to animals and small children. As a matter of fact, the strychnine-type poisons in this plant can kill a dog or small child with just a small amount.
The kiss-me-quick plant contains several very serious toxins that cause life-threatening side effects. These three poisons are scopoletin (gelseminic acid) brunfelsamidine, and hopeanine. Some of the systems affected by these toxins are the central nervous system, the cardiac system, and intestinal tract. Symptoms of poisoning may start within minutes, quickly becoming fatal if not treated right away, or the symptoms may not show up for several hours. Bring your pet to the veterinary hospital immediately if you suspect your dog has kiss-me-quick poisoning.
The kiss-me-quick plant can produce a wide variety of side effects in several different systems of your dog’s body. There are three toxins in the kiss-me-quick plant (brunfelsamidine, gelseminic acid, and hopeanine) that cause symptoms in the brain, cardiovascular system, central nervous system, and the intestinal tract.
The kiss-me-quick plant is from the brunfelsia genus in the Solanaceae (nightshades) family. There are more than 50 species of brunfelsia, but they are all toxic to dogs. Some of the most common are:
To help the veterinarian diagnose your pet, try to bring a sample or photograph of the kiss-me-quick plant. A physical examination will need to be done, but the veterinarian will start your dog on an intravenous (IV) line right away. Some blood may be drawn for laboratory tests, but in a case this serious, the veterinarian will usually start treatment right away because it is important to start treatment before too much of the toxins are absorbed.
Aggressive treatment will be started right away, which includes eliminating the toxins from the body, detoxification, fluid therapy, medication, and observation.
Your dog will be given a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution by mouth to initiate emesis (vomiting). This can be repeated if your pet has not vomited within 15-20 minutes. This should only be done by a trained veterinary professional because it can trigger a seizure and your dog could aspirate.
Gastric lavage is done under anesthesia by tubing your dog with a special endotracheal tube that has a cuff to decrease the chance of aspiration. Warm saline will be pumped through the tube and allowed to drain until the liquid is clear.
To flush your dog’s kidneys, fluids will be administered by an intravenous (IV) tube. This step also prevents dehydration from fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The veterinarian may give your dog muscle relaxants and diazepam to control seizures. To help the kidneys excrete the alkaloids faster, ammonium chloride is helpful.
The veterinarian will keep your dog for at least 24 hours for observation and fluid therapy. Ice baths or enemas may be used to lower your dog’s fever if it is over 103 degrees and oxygen will be given if necessary.
It is essential that your dog receives treatment within the first few hours of ingestion, or before any serious kidney or liver failure symptoms such as jaundice or fluid retention appear. The prognosis is guarded if your dog has had any symptoms before treatment because it is not possible to repair any damage to the kidneys or liver. If your pet received prompt therapy and is released from the hospital, you should monitor your dog carefully for at least a few days and call your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns.
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