What is Maiden's Breath Poisoning?
Maiden’s breath is a native of Asia and Europe, but has been naturalized to grow in Africa, North America, Canada, and South America. Maiden’s breath is a close relation to baby’s breath, they look almost identical, and they both have the toxin, gyposenin. In fact, all 150 species in the gypsophila genus contain the same toxin. Maiden’s breath grows up to about two feet tall, with bunches of small white flowers on thin, lace-like stems. These are commonly grown commercially to sell to florists for bouquets and flower arrangements.
Maiden's breath (also called baby’s breath) poisoning is a mild condition caused by the consumption of one of the 150 species of flower in the gypsophila genus. The toxin in maiden’s breath, gyposenin, produces diarrhea and vomiting if consumed. There have been no deaths reported with maiden’s breath poisoning, but the condition is very stressful to your pet and can be dangerous in small, elderly, and sick dogs. Maiden’s breath is now considered a noxious and invasive weed in the United States and Canada because it spreads so fast and is so difficult to get rid of. Just one plant produces thousands of seeds, and the root system runs deep into the ground, making it hard to kill.
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Symptoms of Maiden's Breath Poisoning in Dogs
Even though the symptoms of maiden’s breath poisoning are usually mild, if your dog eats a large amount, it can become serious. This is especially true for animals with compromised immune systems due to illness or age.
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Vomiting (sometimes severe)
- Diarrhea (can be severe)
Maiden’s breath’s scientific name is gypsophila elegans of the gypsophila genus in the Caryophyllaceae family. There are more than 150 different species of gypsophila. Some of the most common names are:
- Baby’s breath
- Showy baby’s breath
- Common baby’s breath
- Annual baby’s breath
- Cushion baby’s breath
- Panicled baby’s breath
- Creeping baby’s breath
- Garden baby’s breath
Causes of Maiden's Breath Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of maiden's breath poisoning is the poison, gyposenin, which is found in the entire plant. Though most often a mild toxicity, ingestion of the maiden’s breath plant in large quantities can cause serious complications, particularly if your pet elderly or has an underlying health condition. The compound gyposenin causes the emetic and diarrheal problems.
Diagnosis of Maiden's Breath Poisoning in Dogs
To diagnose a case of maiden’s breath poisoning, it is helpful if you can bring a photograph or sample of the plant. Let the veterinarian know as much as you can about what happened, how much your dog ate, and how long ago this took place. Be sure to mention any symptoms you have seen and if your pet is on any medications. It is also a good idea to bring your pet’s medical and immunization records. Also, bring up any abnormal behavior or change in appetite that you have noticed lately.
The veterinarian will do a comprehensive physical examination of your dog, which includes body weight, temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure, breath sounds, oxygen level, and reflexes. Urine and stool samples will be taken at this time to examine under a microscope. Blood will also be drawn for laboratory tests, such as a complete blood count, liver enzyme panel, and glucose test. In addition, a packed cell volume (PCV) will be done to check for dehydration and a biochemistry panel to look for increases or decreases in protein, chloride, bilirubin, potassium, sodium, and creatinine.
Your veterinarian may also want to do an endoscopy to look at your dog’s throat and airway, checking for blockages. Your pet will be sedated during the procedure to reduce stress. It is a very safe process which involves using a long and flexible lighted tube, which is called an endoscope, to help your veterinarian see the inner walls of the throat, esophagus, and upper airway. If any blockages or plant residue is found, the veterinarian can remove it with a small tool if necessary. Afterward, chest and abdominal radiographs (x-rays) will be performed to check for any blockages further down where the endoscope could not reach. If a more detailed view is needed, an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI may be done as well.
Treatment of Maiden's Breath Poisoning in Dogs
The test results and x-rays can help the veterinarian decide the right treatment plan, although treating maiden’s breath poisoning is similar to other poisoning cases. The most common way to treat is by evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation.
To rid your dog’s body of the toxins and any plant particles that may still be undigested, ipecac or hydrogen peroxide will be administered by mouth. This should cause your dog to vomit, which is the most natural and least invasive way to get the poison out. Activated charcoal is also helpful in absorbing any toxins that remain in the digestive system.
Most often, the only treatment needed for detoxification is intravenous (IV) fluids to flush the kidneys. This procedure will also prevent dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea.
No medication is usually needed for maiden’s breath poisoning. However, if your pet is still vomiting, antiemetic medication may be administered through the IV.
There is no need for observation at the hospital so the veterinarian will send you home where you can observe your dog.
Recovery of Maiden's Breath Poisoning in Dogs
The prognosis is excellent and your pet will be back to normal before you know it. You may want to keep your dog’s diet bland for a few days until the intestinal tract is healed. If you have any concerns about his return to a normal appetite and activity level, contact your veterinarian.