What is Lady of the Night Poisoning?
The beautiful lady of the night plant is a native of Brazil, but can also be found growing outdoors in states with warm conditions, such as California and Florida. In addition, lady of the night can be grown in any climate as a potted plant indoors. Stunning flowers adorn the lady of the night plant almost all year round and change from purple to pink to white over several days, so you may see all three colors growing together in any season. Grown outside, these are usually kept as shrubs or bushes that can grow up to 10 feet tall in the right conditions. Indoors they do not usually grow more than two feet tall, depending on the size of the pot and conditions. Although these plants are gorgeous, they may be deadly to your pets and even small children because of the three poisons; brunfelsamidine, scopoletin (gelseminic acid), and hopeanine are contained in the entire plant. The most toxic parts are the seeds and fruit because the poisons are so concentrated there. Many fatalities have been noted from dogs eating seed pods or fruit.
Lady of the night poisoning is a serious and possibly life-threatening condition your dog can get from eating any of the approximately 50 species of brunfelsia plants. These plants are all part of the deadly nightshades family and contain several toxins that produce cardiac, neurological, and gastrointestinal side effects very similar to strychnine poisoning. Some of these side effects are vomiting, seizures, heartbeat irregularity, and in some cases, death. Therefore, if you suspect your pet has eaten any part of a lady of the night plant, go to the emergency veterinary clinic or hospital as soon as possible.
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Symptoms of Lady of the Night Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog eats any part of a lady of the night plant, some of the first signs you notice may be vomiting, nervousness, and dilated pupils. However, these symptoms can rapidly progress to serious heart-related effects which may be fatal within hours.
- Dilated pupils
- Appetite loss
- Extreme lethargy
- Drooling more than usual
- Muscle tremors
- Blood in urine
- Urinating frequently
- Excessive thirst
- Breathing trouble (gasping for breath, rapid breathing)
- Muscle spasms
- Respiratory failure
- Arching the back and neck
- Inability to walk
- Liver failure
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes)
- Kidney failure
- Abdominal swelling from water retention
The lady of the night plant is part of the Solanaceae family, but are known by many names. Some of the common names are:
- Yesterday, today and tomorrow
- Puerto Rican raintree
- Franciscan raintree
- Cuban raintree
- Brazil raintree
- Brunfelsia densifolia
- Morning, noon and night
- Kiss me quick
- American brunfelsia
- Brunfelsia grandiflora
Causes of Lady of the Night Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of lady of the night poisoning are the toxic substances in the plant. The toxins known to cause poisoning are:
- Brunfelsamidine, which is a neurotoxicant, may instigate overexcitement, seizures (clonic and tonic), and death
- Scopoletin (gelseminic acid) is a smooth muscle relaxant which can cause heartbeat irregularities
- Hopeanine is a neuro depressant which can produce seizures and paralysis.
Diagnosis of Lady of the Night Poisoning in Dogs
Diagnosis of lady of the night poisoning is usually dependent on your view of what happened, how much was eaten, and when. Bringing in a photograph of the plant may help the veterinarian know exactly what she is dealing with so she can treat your dog more quickly and accurately. First, the veterinarian will perform a complete physical check-up which includes eye, ear, throat, and nose examination as well as coat condition, weight, heart rate, reflexes, body temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen level. In addition, abdominal x-rays, blood count, and urinalysis will be conducted.
Treatment of Lady of the Night Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will usually want to start treatment immediately because removing the toxins from the intestinal tract before they are absorbed by the blood is essential to successful recovery.
To get the poison out of your dog’s system, ipecac or peroxide solution will be given to induce vomiting. If your pet still has not vomited, the solution may be given again after 20-30 minutes. Do not try this at home because your dog may have a seizure brought on by the vomiting.
A gastrointestinal lavage may be performed by using a tube to carefully wash away toxins and plant particles from your pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Also, intravenous (IV) fluids will be started to flush the kidneys and prevent dehydration.
To prevent and control seizures, the veterinarian may give your dog diazepam and muscle relaxants. Ammonium chloride may be used to increase toxin excretion and antacids for gastric distress. Oxygen therapy is usually started as well.
Hospitalization is almost always necessary for lady-of-the-night poisoning due to the extremely serious side effects that can occur. The veterinarian will want to keep your dog under constant observation for at least 24 hours to give supportive care immediately, if necessary.
Recovery of Lady of the Night Poisoning in Dogs
Immediate treatment is essential and it is therefore, important to start therapy before symptoms begin. The damage to your dog’s organs and nervous system may be permanent if treatment is not obtained right away, and the prognosis is poor if there is a delay. Constant supervision and observation over the next few days at home is necessary to recovery as well, and you should call or bring your dog back to the clinic immediately if you have any concerns.