What is Lupine Poisoning?
The lupine is a perennial that blooms in early summer providing an array of many vibrant colors. The variety and species of the lupine determine the poisoning, and the toxicity is mostly in the seeds but can be attributed to other parts of the plant as well. Many factors contribute to the degree of poisoning that will result from ingestion; the season, the type of lupine, and the part of the plant consumed are all components to the poisoning. Lupinine is the main alkaloid found in the lupine plant, along with enzyme inhibitors and other alkaloids making up the mix.
Lupine plants can grow approximately three feet tall. They are found all over North America, typically seen in prairie wooded areas and open fields. Also found in gardens, there are 100 native species found mostly in the western states and provinces of the United States and Canada, though they have been noted in multiple areas of the two countries.
Documented cases of poisoning are often seen in sheep and cattle. Goats, horses, and humans have suffered from toxicity as well. Sheep find the plant palatable in any stage of the growing season which is why records show much data. Cattle can have offspring born with deformities if lupine is consumed between the 40th and 70th day of gestation. The amount eaten will be a factor; sheep can tolerate ingesting lupine somewhat but will experience toxicity after a diet of lupine in the forage for 3 to 4 days. Cattle, eating the plant for three days to a week, may become poisoned. There has been much documentation of goat’s milk consumption causing deformities in human and canine offspring after maternal consumption of the milk. Children who eat the lupine seeds or pods, mistaking them for edible peas and beans, will feel dizzy and lose coordination. Fortunately, death occurs only rarely.
Lupines contain alkaloids that are known to be toxic to humans and animals. Though toxicity has been predominantly noted in livestock, the danger of poisoning in dogs is a possibility.
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Symptoms of Lupine Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms typically noted refer to livestock consumption of lupines. If your dog ingests lupines, a veterinary visit is warranted to be on the safe side, even though a large amount is typically needed before toxicity occurs.
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Frothing at the mouth
- Twitching of muscles
- Head pressing
- Liver issues (showing as jaundice)
- Respiratory paralysis resulting in death
Lupines that have a moldy appearance can contain fungus which will cause mycotoxic lupinosis. The fungus is characterized by inappetence, jaundice, and sometimes death.
There are 100 native lupine species in North America, belonging to the family Fabaceae. Some of the types are:
Similar plants to the lupine that contain like-acting toxins are the Scotch broom, locust tree, and the golden chain.
Causes of Lupine Poisoning in Dogs
- Younger plants are typically more toxic
- In addition, plants in the seed stage of late summer are dangerous because the seeds have a high alkaloid toxin
- Seeds, pods, and young leaves can contain the alkaloids anagyrine, quinolizidine and lupinines
- There are also enzyme inhibitors thought to be associated with the lupines
- Large amounts of the plant typically need to be ingested in order for toxicosis to occur
- The poison remains when the plant is dry
- Livestock and pasture fed animals may eat the lupines mixed into their hay
- The lupine plant may cause digestive issues (excess roughage) and the ingestion of seeds and pods could cause coughing or choking
Diagnosis of Lupine Poisoning in Dogs
With any plant ingestion, bringing a sample to the veterinarian clinic is beneficial to the diagnosis. In the case of lupine poisoning, the leaves, seeds, and pods are most toxic. Unless your pet has been grazing consistently on large amounts of the lupine plant for several days, there may not be obvious symptoms to aid in the diagnostic process.
Your veterinarian will ask for the recent health history of your dog such as illnesses of late, medications prescribed, and whether you feel there have been any behavioral changes that could be considered signs of toxicity from the lupine plant. She will also do a physical assessment of pulse, heart rate, and breathing sounds, as well as look at the mucus membranes for signs of jaundice.
There is no test specific to lupine poisoning in dogs. The veterinarian may want to do blood tests (complete blood count and serum biochemistry) and a urinalysis to determine if any toxicity is apparent.
Treatment of Lupine Poisoning in Dogs
Fortunately, most canines will not find the lupine to be attractive to the palate. There are pets who will eat plants of any type, and if your dog has eaten a large amount of leaves, seeds or pods of a toxic species of lupines there could be the need for treatment.
Treatment of lupine poisoning in dogs is not well documented, but the potential for severe toxicity is there. Dogs who exhibit behavioral changes or who show signs of illness after the ingestion of a potentially poisonous plant should be evaluated.
If treatment is necessary, it will be based on clinical signs and will be of a supportive nature. The veterinarian will determine if vomiting should be induced and whether your pet needs cathartic-type medication for example, to aid in the movement of the plant matter through the gastrointestinal system. If your dog has signs of jaundice, convulsions, or frothing at the mouth, this could mean a case of serious toxicity and the veterinarian will administer medication as required. In addition, your veterinarian may want to establish whether mold was present in the lupine plant, in order to rule out mycotoxic lupinosis.
Recovery of Lupine Poisoning in Dogs
Severe lupine poisoning in dogs is not well recorded due to the rarity of the event. Ingestion of a small amount should enable a full recovery. There is always the case of a pet with underlying health issues who may experiences consequences related to the ingestion of a plant; therefore, all incidences of a dog sampling a potentially poisonous plant should be seen by the veterinarian. Keep your pet on a leash when walking him in areas that may contain toxic plants. Planting safe grasses in your yard that are attractive to pets who like to graze could be an option as you work to train them not to eat plants while off property.