What is Klamath Weed Poisoning?
The klamath weed is originally from Africa, Asia, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, and Turkey, but it has been propagated to grow in the United States and British Columbia. This perennial can grow up to three feet tall and blooms are one inch in diameter with yellow flowers shaped like stars. Some pet owners give klamath weed extract (sold as Saint John’s wort) because it is reputed to be good for humans for certain ailments. However, this is dangerous for your pet because it is toxic to them in any amount.
Klamath weed poisoning is a condition brought on by the consumption of Saint John’s wort (Klamath weed) that is found to be toxic in all animals. The hypericin in the plant is the cause of symptoms such as photosensitization, blisters, and skin ulcers. In rare cases, large consumptions may cause coma and death if not treated right away. Some experts claim that the long-term effects of hypericin cause cancer in some animals because of the hypersensitivity to UV rays from the sun, liver damage, and changes in the DNA.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Klamath Weed Poisoning in Dogs
The side effects of klamath weed in dogs are varied because there are a great number of reports that state differences in opinion and facts. The most commonly reported side effect seen in dogs treated with or from accidental ingestion of klamath weed are:
- Skin ulcers
- Blisters and lesions
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Liver damage (long-term)
- Skin cancer (long-term)
- Coma (rare)
- Death (rare)
The klamath weed is more commonly known as Saint John’s wort, but its scientific name is hypericum perforatum. It also goes by several other names, which are:
- Tipton weed
- Shrubby Saint John’s wort
- Saint Andrew’s cross
- Rosin rose
- Goat weed
Causes of Klamath Weed Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of klamath weed poisoning is the hypericin found throughout the entire plant, but is most concentrated in areas that contain black dots, such as the flower petals and foliage. Ingestion of this plant can cause a skin condition that is exacerbated by sun exposure. Other complications resulting from exposure are convulsions, blindness, and heart issues, among others.
Diagnosis of Klamath Weed Poisoning in Dogs
To diagnose klamath weed poisoning, it is best if you can bring in a picture of the plant or a sample that the veterinarian can have analyzed. Tell the veterinarian how much and what part of the plant your pet consumed and when it happened. Also, bring your dog’s medical records and inform the veterinarian of any medications your pet is on.
A physical examination will be conducted first, checking the overall condition of your pet, including the coat, weight, blood pressure, temperature, breath sounds, and reflexes. The veterinarian will do a visual examination of your dog’s skin, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to look for signs of irritation or lesions. A urinalysis and stool sample will be taken at this time to test for infection or other possible causes of the symptoms your dog is experiencing.
Blood tests will be performed next, which include a complete blood count, chemical profile, liver enzyme panel, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), packed cell volume (PCV), and arterial blood gas (ABG). The veterinarian may also decide to do a blood glucose test, hematocrit, and creatinine (CREAT) level profile.
An endoscopy may be conducted to see if there are any ulcerations, plant particles, or residue in your dog’s throat and airway. This is done using a long flexible tube (endoscope) while your dog is under sedation. In addition, some abdominal x-rays will be taken so the veterinarian can see if there is any inflammation or ulceration in the esophagus or gastrointestinal tract. If necessary, and ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan may be done to get a more detailed picture.
Treatment of Klamath Weed Poisoning in Dogs
The treatment plan for your dog in klamath weed poisoning is similar to any other type of animal poisoning. The procedure is usually evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation. However, your veterinarian may include more treatment, if needed, or may not conduct all of the steps listed.
The first step is always to eliminate the toxins from your pet’s system. In this case, if your dog has not been vomiting, the veterinarian will administer ipecac by mouth to trigger the vomiting reaction. This is followed by activated charcoal to absorb any toxins that have not been expelled.
This step includes a gastric lavage to rinse away any undigested toxins and fluids to flush the kidneys. This also helps prevent dehydration.
To ease the pain of the ulcers and dermatitis, the veterinarian will prescribe a topical ointment or cream. Also, corticosteroids are sometimes given to reduce the inflammation.
The veterinarian does not usually keep a pet for observation unless there are serious issues such as liver toxicity or severe ulceration.
Recovery of Klamath Weed Poisoning in Dogs
The prognosis is excellent for your pet as long as you were able to obtain treatment before too much sun damage is done to the skin. For the remainder of your dog’s life, you will have to try not to expose your pet to sunlight and make sure your dog wears protective outerwear (dog clothes online). Call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.