What is Lemongrass Poisoning?
Lemongrass plants (Cymbopogon citratus) are listed as safe for use in gardens in which dogs have free access. That being said, canines are not herbivores, so their digestive systems are not designed to process large quantities of plant material. Eating excessive amounts of plant material can cause dangerous intestinal blockages in canines. This should not be confused with the Citronella plant (Cymbopogon nardus), which looks similar but has red stems. Citronella can be mildly noxious, particularly in oil form.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is an edible grass of Asian origin. These plants are non-toxic and are listed on several gardening sites as dog-friendly.
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Symptoms of Lemongrass Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog decides to nibble on any lemongrass from your garden, he is unlikely to suffer any ill effects. This long grass is generally non-toxic in nature, however, if sufficient quantities of the vegetation are consumed, it can result in perilous intestinal blockages. Signs that indicate that intestinal obstruction has occurred will usually present within 24 hours after the consumption of something indigestible. Symptoms of severe intestinal blockage could include:
- Abdominal pain
- Distended abdomen
- Inability to eliminate
- Loss of appetite
- Straining on defecation
- Cymbopogon citratus - This tropical plant from southern Asia is often used in cooking particularly in chicken dishes; this plant is generally non-toxic although it can cause some gastrointestinal distress if eaten in large quantities
- Cymbopogon nardus - Also known as citronella grass, this plant looks similar to lemongrass but has maroon stems; citronella grass is the source of the natural insect repellent, citronella oil
- Cymbopogon winterianus - Java citronella was developed in the 19th century from the Cymbopogon nardus, this plant also produces citronella oil, up to twice as much as the original citronella plant, and is often used in perfumes
Causes of Lemongrass Poisoning in Dogs
Lemongrass is often used in the healing arts for people as well in canines. Like citronella, the oil from the lemongrass plant is mildly repellent to insects due to the high citral and geraniol content. It is often used in shampoos and deodorants due to its pleasant odor and skin healing properties. It has also demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal properties and may help lower levels of uric acid.
Diagnosis of Lemongrass Poisoning in Dogs
As lemongrass is not poisonous by itself, if your pet develops symptoms after eating this plant it is usually due to misidentification of the plant or a secondary illness or complication. Symptoms, therefore, would direct the testing. A urinalysis, biochemistry profile, and complete blood count (CBC) will generally be ordered to determine if any toxins or imbalances remain in your dog’s system and a physical examination will be completed by the veterinarian.
If intestinal blockages are causing the symptoms, the examiner may discover sensitivity to touch or find a mass where the plant material has clumped together in the digestive system, which would prompt a recommendation for further imaging. Ultrasound technology or x-rays may be used for an accurate visual depiction, possibly with a barium study. If your companion’s symptoms seem to be related to a reaction to a toxin, you will be interviewed for information about your pet’s health history and any opportunities for inappropriate eating. Tests to check for possible pesticides or other plant toxins will be completed to see if the underlying cause can be determined.
Treatment of Lemongrass Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms and the final diagnosis will guide the treatment plan. Supportive treatments such as treatment with intravenous fluids may be started if your dog appears to be in distress, even before a diagnosis has been determined. In the event of an obstruction of the intestinal system, in most cases, therapies such as fluid therapy can be used to flush the mass out of your dog’s system. Imaging will be periodically repeated in order to track the movement of the accumulation until it exits his gastrointestinal system.
Surgery may be required in acute cases, to remove the mass and correct any damage it caused. If indications point to the ingestion of something that was actually toxic, such as another type of plant, or even pesticides applied to the plant eaten, then appropriate steps will be taken to remove the particular toxin. These actions could include inducing vomiting, gastric lavage, the use of activated charcoal, and toxin specific antidotes.
Recovery of Lemongrass Poisoning in Dogs
Although the lemongrass plant is not toxic itself, it does have a similar appearance to the citronella plant. The citronella plant and lemongrass are in the same family but unlike lemongrass, citronella can be mildly toxic. it is important to be alert to possible risks in the environment and unusual behaviors changes in your canine. Safe plants may be sprayed with toxic pesticides, and eating too much of any vegetation can cause gastrointestinal distress or blockage for canines.
A pet who suddenly develops the urge to eat large amounts of vegetation or other inappropriate items may be responding to brain lesions, vitamin deficiencies, or circulatory abnormalities and should be checked by a veterinarian. The best way to keep your pet safe is by careful observation of his behavior and environment.
Lemongrass Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi, my dog ate lemongrass 3 days ago.
Is there any home treatments. She's still eating and drinking, and being her normal self,has diarrhoea and slight fever just a bit lazier than normal
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Can I use lemongrass oil on my dog? Does it have to be diluted if it can be used? I intended to use it on his skin for itching and scratching. The vet said it was allergies, possibly from flea bites.
The vet gave him pills, but it doesn't seem to be helping.
Many people use different essential oils to control fleas in pets. All essential oils cause irritation to pet’s skin so should be used diluted; dilution levels vary depending on the literature, one drop of essential oil for four drops (or one teaspoon) of carrier oil for a dog the size of a Lhasa Apso. I couldn’t find a reputable source for dilution levels for specifically lemongrass oil; so I would advise against, there are many flea prevention treatments available for external application which you can get from your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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