What is Lace Fern Poisoning?
The lace fern (Asparagus setaceus) is not actually a fern, but the leaves make it a good imposter. This is a perennial herb with strong, green climbing vines that can reach almost 10 feet in length. The leaves are actually long, flat stems which grow in groups of 10-15, making the fine, fern-like foliage. In the spring, the small green or white flowers bloom and turn into berries that turn from green to black. It is these flowers or berries that hold the most sapogenins, making them the most toxic. If your dog eats any part of a lace fern, visit a veterinary professional right away.
The lace fern (Asparagus setaceus) contains sapogenins, which can cause skin irritation or a serious toxic reaction if eaten. Although these sapogenins are found in the entire plant and flowers, the highest concentration of toxin is in the flowers or berries. Since these sapogenins are quickly absorbed into the blood, they are even more dangerous than the usual plant. In addition, dogs have better access to them during the winter because both the plants and your dog are spending more time inside. When eaten, you may notice your dog vomiting, drooling, and may have convulsions. You may also see signs of cardiac involvement, which are increased or irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, and collapse. drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
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Symptoms of Lace Fern Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms depend on which part and how much your dog consumed. If your dog ate any flowers or berries, it is vital that you go to the veterinarian or animal hospital right away. Some of the most often reported symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal heart rate or rhythm
- Appetite loss
- Blood in urine
- Bloody diarrhea
- Liver inflammation
- Respiratory failure
- Rough coat
- Ulcerative gastritis
- Weight loss
The lace fern (Asparagus setaceus) is from the family Asparagaceae and order of asparagales of the genus asparagus. There are many different types and nicknames of the lace fern:
- Asparagus fern
- Climbing asparagus
- Ferny asparagus
- Plumosa fern
- Racemose asparagus
- Sprengeri fern
Causes of Lace Fern Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of lace fern poisoning is the sapogenins, which are a form of saponin that contain triterpene steroids. Consumption of and skin contact with the lace fern can cause symptoms from mild irritation to serious heart arrhythmia, paralysis, and seizures.
Diagnosis of Lace Fern Poisoning in Dogs
Try to bring a piece of the plant with you so your veterinarian can find out what plant has been eaten to hasten the diagnosis. The sooner the diagnosis, the faster the treatment can be started. Early treatment is important in lace fern poisoning because the sapogenins can be absorbed into the bloodstream faster than other toxins. Your veterinarian will start IV fluids for your dog to stop dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting. If necessary, your dog will get oxygen therapy as well by insertion of a tube through your dog’s nose. Explain to your veterinarian exactly what you know about what happened, how much and what parts of the lace fern your dog ate, and whether any symptoms have been seen. It helps to tell the veterinarian your dog’s age, breed, previous illnesses or injuries, and any strange behavior or appetite.
Next, your veterinarian will do a complete physical examination of your dog including general appearance, weight, body temperature, reflexes, heart rate, lung sounds, respirations, blood pressure, and an inspection of the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Some laboratory tests will be performed, including a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry panel, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels, blood gases, and electrolyte levels. Radiographs (x-rays) will also be done to get a good view your dog’s intestinal tract and stomach. Additionally, an ultrasound may be done to check the size of the kidneys and evaluate any damage. In some cases, your veterinarian may use a CT scan or MRI to get a more detailed look of the kidneys or other internal organs.
Treatment of Lace Fern Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will induce vomiting to empty your dog’s stomach by giving a peroxide solution, if necessary. Also, a charcoal lavage can be used to force leftover toxins from the digestive system and stomach. The activated charcoal absorbs the toxins so that they do not cause any more damage to your dog’s system. Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy will probably already be started if your dog has been vomiting or had diarrhea, and that will be continued for several hours or maybe overnight, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Recovery of Lace Fern Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is treated within the first 24 hours, the prognosis is good. Make sure you get rid of the lace fern or move it to a place where your dog has no way of accessing it. Provide plenty of fresh water and a bland diet for your dog for several days and if you have any questions, be sure to call your veterinarian.