What is Malanga Poisoning?
The malanga can grow up to eight feet tall and about 5 feet wide in its native land of Africa. However, in the United States, they are not able to flourish in any of the states grown outdoors, although the malanga can be a great indoor plant. Those with dogs should always keep the malanga out of their reach because they tend to like to chew on plants. If you believe your dog has eaten part of a malanga, you should see a veterinary professional even if there are no symptoms yet.
Malanga poisoning is a moderate to severe condition caused by the ingestion of the malanga plant, which contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. Biting into or chewing part of the malanga plant produces immediate pain and burning in the mouth as the crystals (in bundles called raphides) puncture the soft tissue. This can cause your dog to vomit, not be able to swallow, and your pet may even have trouble breathing due to the inflammation. In fact, although it is not common, some dogs have such bad swelling that they cannot breathe at all. The oxalic acid in the plant also decreases the availability of calcium, protein, and other minerals. Another toxin in the malanga plant is asparagine, which has been known to cause several kinds of cancer and can affect the kidneys as well.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Malanga Poisoning in Dogs
The first signs that your pet has eaten part of a malanga plant are usually yelping or whining while pawing at the mouth and tongue. This is due to the immediate pain that is caused from the oxalate crystals. The most common signs of malanga poisoning are:
- Lack of appetite
- Rubbing the face and mouth
- Oral irritation
- Intense burning of exposed skin, eyes, and mouth
- Reddening and swelling of the lips, tongue, and mouth
- Unusual amount of drooling
- Difficulty swallowing
- Inflammation of the throat and airway causing inability to breathe
- Heart rhythm irregularities (too slow or too fast)
The scientific name of malanga is Colocasia esculenta from the Araceae family. However, it is also known by other names, such as:
- Elephant ear plant
- Taro plant
Causes of Malanga Poisoning in Dogs
- Asparagine – May cause cancer of the kidneys and ovaries
- Insoluble calcium oxalates – Causes pain and swelling from the bundles of oxalate crystals that get embedded in the soft tissues
- Oxalic acid – Binds calcium and other minerals causing decreases in those minerals needed for healthy growth
Diagnosis of Malanga Poisoning in Dogs
The diagnosis of malanga poisoning is easier if you can bring the veterinarian a sample or a picture of the plant. In addition, provide all the details you know about the plant your pet ate, how much was eaten, and when it was consumed. A copy of your pet’s medical and vaccination records can also help the veterinarian with treatment planning and be sure to tell her if your dog is on any medication. A complete physical examination will be performed to check your pet’s weight, body temperature, reflexes, blood pressure, heart rate, breath sounds, and pulse oximetry (oxygen saturation level).
A urinalysis will show an increased amount of protein and calcium in the urine if your dog is suffering from malanga poisoning. The veterinarian will also do a complete blood count and chemical profile to check for higher than normal levels of creatinine, sodium, and chloride. The veterinarian will probably do an endoscopy to see if there are any plant particles in the upper digestive system. Abdominal x-rays can help determine if there are any blockages from the inflammation caused by the oxalate crystals. These crystals may become embedded in the intestinal tract, stomach, and digestive system, causing serious inflammation and possible obstruction. An ultrasound will also be performed to look at the size and condition of the kidneys, stomach, and liver. Sometimes, the veterinarian may want to do an MRI or CT scan for a more detailed look.
Treatment of Malanga Poisoning in Dogs
The treatment will depend on the amount of malanga eaten and how much of the oxalate crystals have become embedded in the tissues of the throat, intestinal tract, stomach, and digestive system. The veterinarian may want to perform the usual evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation. However, if your pet is in distress due to crystals embedded in the mouth, tongue, and throat, the veterinarian will use warm water to wash away as much of the plant residue and crystals first.
A peroxide solution or ipecac will be given to induce vomiting and activated charcoal to absorb the undigested toxins. This step may be repeated if necessary.
To detoxify your pet, the veterinarian will do a warm water lavage to wash away any plant materials or residue left in the digestive system. Afterward, your dog will be given fluids by intravenous (IV) line to flush the kidneys and prevent dehydration.
Calcium chloride and calcium gluconate will sometimes be added to the IV to help bind and remove the calcium oxalates from the blood. A stomach protectant will probably be given and corticosteroids administered to reduce the inflammation.
The veterinarian may suggest an overnight stay in the hospital for observation if your dog consumed a large amount of malanga.
Recovery of Malanga Poisoning in Dogs
Once home, continue to observe your dog carefully to watch for abnormal behavior or a change in appetite. If you have any questions or concerns about his appetite or rate of recovery, call your veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian will be able to suggest foods that may be suitable and palatable for your pet to eat while his mouth heals and returns to normal.