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The lacy tree (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) is a tropical plant, usually used as a shrub or small tree, has white flowers, can grow up to 15 feet tall, and the unique leaves can grow up to five feet long. However, the lacy tree is also quite popular in homes and offices as houseplants. These trees can be deadly for your dog or other small pets or children because of the calcium oxalate crystals that are poisonous and can cause internal damage as well. Another lethal complication is from anaphylactic shock if your dog has an allergic reaction to the sap of the lacy tree, so any kind of contact with the tree is not recommended. If you think your dog has been exposed to or eaten any part of the lacy tree, go to the veterinarian’s office or animal hospital immediately, even if there are no obvious symptoms. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between life and death.
Lacy tree poisoning is a serious, potentially fatal situation that can happen from eating any part of the lacy tree. If you have a dog, cat, or small children, having this plant in your home can be a deadly mistake. The lacy tree contains calcium oxalate crystals; toxins that are like microscopic needles which penetrate any soft surface (like your dog’s mouth, tongue, stomach, and intestinal tract when crushed or chewed. Any kind of exposure, oral, ocular (eye), or topical (skin), can be dangerous. The calcium oxalate crystals can also cause stomach irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, blistering, and swelling. The immediate pain your dog feels is usually enough to prevent a lethal amount of poison from entering the bloodstream, but not always.
The symptoms of lacy tree poisoning or exposure vary depending on which area was exposed:
Ocular (Eye) Exposure
Topical (Skin) Exposure
The lacy tree, also known as lacy tree philodendron, is part of the family Araceae, order of alismatales, and of the genus philodendron. This tropical tree is grown in Paraguay. Argentina. Brazil, and Bolivia, but is also used as a houseplant or landscape shrub or tree in warm temperate climates, such as Florida, Louisiana, and California. Other names the lacy tree is known by are:
The calcium oxalate crystals in the lacy tree are the cause of lacy tree poisoning. The method of poisoning can be:
occurs if your dog ingests any part of the lacy tree
(rare) can occur if your dog’s eye is exposed to the lacy tree
is caused by skin exposure to the lacy tree
The tests for lacy tree poisoning can be complicated, so try to bring in a part of the plant if you can. The hardest part of diagnosing your dog is ruling out other illnesses or conditions so the more information you can give the veterinarian the better. Your dog’s medical history is important, such as recent injury or illnesses, vaccination records, and abnormal behavior. The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination including breath sounds, weight, coat condition, oral and optical examination, blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, pulse oximetry, and reflexes.
Laboratory tests include urinalysis, electrolyte levels, complete blood count (CBC), blood gases, liver enzymes, chemistry panel, and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). The veterinarian will also want to get some images of your dog’s abdominal area with x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds if needed. If your dog has symptoms of ocular exposure, the veterinarian will do a fluorescein eye examination. This procedure is done by staining the eye with ocular dye and looking at it under a slit lamp.
For eye exposure, the eye will be irrigated with saline solution and treated with an optical antibiotic and pain/itch reliever. Skin exposure can be treated at home by washing the area with warm, soapy water and possibly treating it with cortisone cream suggested by your veterinarian. Oral poisoning will be treated by using cool saline and ice chips to wash away the remaining parts of the plant, if any, and application of an oral analgesic for pain. The veterinarian may want to observe your dog for a couple of hours to be sure there is no allergic reaction.
Once your dog is allowed to return home, continue with bland food for 24 to 48 hours, or however long your veterinarian suggests. Provide a safe and quiet place for your dog to rest and plenty of fresh water. Be sure to get rid of any remaining plants in your home or lacy tree plants on your property so this does not happen again.
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