What is Lord and Ladies Poisoning?
Lord and ladies is a small and peculiar looking plant with purple spotted leaves, green hood, and a purple spadix (spike) in the middle. At the bottom of the spadix, there is a ring of male flowers above a ring of female flowers. The plant itself is warm and has a foul smell, which attracts insects to help pollinate other plants. In autumn, the female flowers turn to berries, which are the most poisonous part of the plant. The oxalates are concentrated into bundles (raphides) of sharp crystals which get stuck into the tissues of the mouth and throat, producing severe burning and pain. If a large amount is eaten (rarely), the inflammation from the oxalates can close off the airway and cause suffocation.
Lord and ladies poisoning is a moderately serious condition caused by the ingestion of a plant called lord and ladies (arum maculatum). The toxins contained in the lord and ladies plant are insoluble calcium oxalates, which are crystals that can cause pain and swelling, among other side effects. Most dogs will stop eating after the first bite because of the pain from the oxalate crystals, so it is not often that poisoning from lord and ladies consumption is very serious. However, it is best that you take your dog to see a veterinary professional anyway because some animals may be allergic and can have a serious reaction leading to death from suffocation.
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Symptoms of Lord and Ladies Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog eats any part of a lord and ladies plant, you may see signs of mouth pain, yelping, gagging, and vomiting. The severity of the side effects varies depending on the amount of the plant that was eaten. Some of the most common signs of lord and ladies poisoning are:
- Swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips
- Mouth pain
- Coughing and gagging
- Foaming at the mouth
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Breathing difficulty
- Suffocation (rare)
- Death (rare)
Lord and ladies is part of the arum genus in the Araceae family. It is also known by several other names, such as:
- Jack in the pulpit
- Cows and bulls
- Arum maculatum
- Arum lily
- Wake robin
- Devils and angels
- Wild arum
- Adam & Eve
Causes of Lord and Ladies Poisoning in Dogs
Lord and ladies poisoning is caused by the consumption of any part of the plant, but the most serious is the berries because they contain the most toxins, which are calcium oxalates. These oxalates not only cause pain in the mouth and on the lips, but can cause swelling in the throat if swallowed.
Diagnosis of Lord and Ladies Poisoning in Dogs
For a prompt diagnosis, your veterinarian will need to see your pet as soon as possible after the event, and it is helpful if you can also bring in a sample or photo of the lord and ladies plant. Explain as much as you can about the incident and mention any side effects you have noticed. Be sure to bring your pet’s medical records and tell the veterinarian if you have given your dog any medications.
The veterinarian will want to take a look at your dog’s throat and mouth to remove any plant particles that may be still there. She may decide to sedate your dog first to prevent any undue stress during the procedure. A complete physical will be done next, including pulse, blood pressure, breath sounds, temperature, body weight, reflexes and coat condition. In addition, the veterinarian may use an endoscope to check the throat and airway for swelling and plant particles. Sedation is also used during this part of the examination. Blood tests will also be done, including complete blood count, biochemical profile, liver enzyme panel, arterial blood gas, blood glucose, and packed cell volume. A urinalysis and stool sample will also be taken for microscopic examination at this time. Abdominal x-rays are helpful in determining if there are any blockages and inflammation.
Treatment of Lord and Ladies Poisoning in Dogs
Your pet’s treatment depends on the symptoms and test results. However, most often, the treatment consists of evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation.
Ipecac or hydrogen peroxide will be given by mouth to precipitate emesis (vomiting) if your dog has not already been vomiting. A treatment will be prepared with activated charcoal to absorb as much of the toxins as possible. This can be repeated if necessary.
To remove any toxins that have not been digested, a gastric lavage may be performed. This will rinse away the lingering poisons not absorbed by the charcoal. Additionally, intravenous (IV) fluids will be given to prevent dehydration and flush the kidneys.
Antacids and antiemetics may be given to settle the digestive system. Also, a corticosteroid injection can help relieve the inflammation caused by the oxalate crystals.
The veterinarian will probably let you go home right away if your dog responds well to the treatment. If not, your pet may be kept for a few hours for observation.
Recovery of Lord and Ladies Poisoning in Dogs
Recovery is usually pretty fast if your pet is in good health and in most instances, he will be back to normal within a day or two. If your dog’s appetite is not as good as it was previously, the veterinarian may suggest a special diet. Continue to observe your dog closely for a few days to be sure there are no complications.