What is Miniature Croton Poisoning?
Croton plants include several varieties of ornamental shrub under the heading of Codiaeum variegatum, selected for their colorful leaves. Miniature croton is the smallest of these varieties. Organic chemicals known as diterpenes, including 5-deoxyingenol, are found in the bark, roots, and sap of all croton plants. If chewed or swallowed these chemicals will cause painful swelling and ulceration of the mouth area. If sufficient quantities get ingested, it can also cause vomiting and diarrhea. Repeated skin contact with the sap can also cause an eczema-like reaction in both humans and canines.
The scientific name for miniature croton is Codiaeum variegatum. It is a tropical shrub selected for its colorful leaves. Chemicals from the bark, roots, and sap can cause severe discomfort if chewed or swallowed.
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Symptoms of Miniature Croton Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms that occur due to consumption of the miniature croton plant are usually relatively mild and rarely require hospitalization. The chemical that causes the reaction, 5-deoxyingenol, is suspected as a co-carcinogen in addition to being an irritant to skin tissues.
- Abdominal pain
- Blistering in mouth
- Eye irritation
- Irritation to mucous membranes
- Skin irritation
- Swelling in mouth
There are several different varieties of croton classified as a Codiaeum variegatum, grown mainly for their colorful leaves. Croton plants go by several different names including variegated laurel, and Joseph’s coat. All varieties of croton contain 5-deoxyingenol and can cause similar symptoms as the irritant passes through the digestive tract. These plants are also known for causing eczema-like dermatitis when the skin is exposed to the sap. Other plants which contain varying amounts of the toxin 5-deoxyingenol can include:
- Euphorbia milii (cancer weed, petty spurge, radium weed)
- Euphorbia peplus (Christ's crown, crown-of-thorns, the Christ's thorn)
- Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia)
Causes of Miniature Croton Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of poisoning from the miniature croton plant are caused by naturally occurring chemicals known as diterpenes, including 5-deoxyingenol. These diterpenes developed in the bark, roots and sap of the plants as a chemical defense against herbivores, therefore they are particularly toxic to horses and cattle. While they can cause mild to moderate distress for most other types of animals, it is extremely rare for it to be fatal.
Diagnosis of Miniature Croton Poisoning in Dogs
If you see your pet ingesting material from a croton shrub, identification may be sufficient for a preliminary diagnosis of the origin of your pet’s malaise. If you did not observe your pet ingesting the plant, your veterinarian would most likely recommend that you visit the office based on the symptoms.
Your veterinarian will probably focus on any opportunistic eating in addition to any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is taking in an attempt to rule out any dangerous interactions or other serious toxins. A complete blood count is commonly ordered at this time, as well as a biochemistry profile and urinalysis in order to reveal any diseases, toxins, or imbalances for proper treatment. Any spots of dermatitis from contact with the sap will also be inspected at this time. If enough plant material was consumed to induce vomiting, then the vomitus will also be examined and tested for toxins. Plant material found in the vomit often helps confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Miniature Croton Poisoning in Dogs
A thorough rinsing of the mouth and other affected areas with clean water should be the first course of action, in an effort to remove as much of the toxin from the exposed tissues as possible. The discomfort and unpleasant taste will prevent most canines from ingesting much of the actual plant material which means that rinsing the mouth area may be all the treatment that is needed for the patient to recover, although your dog may also appreciate an ice cube to eat to reduce minor pain and swelling in the mouth. If the reaction to the irritant becomes more severe, your veterinarian may also recommend an appropriate antihistamine or pain reliever to administer to your dog to reduce swelling and discomfort any affected areas of the mouth or skin.
If vomiting or diarrhea become excessive, your veterinarian will often recommend bringing your pet into the office for further supportive treatment. IV fluids treatment will be administered at the veterinarian’s office to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and if an antihistamine was not dispensed earlier, it may be injected into the muscle at this time. Gastroprotective medications such as Imodium or Pepcid AC may also be recommended by the veterinarian to prevent any damage from occurring to the lining of the patient’s stomach.
Recovery of Miniature Croton Poisoning in Dogs
In most cases, the effects of the caustic sap will dissipate in a few hours. If larger quantities than normal were consumed or if your dog has a particular sensitivity to the chemical in the plant, nausea and vomiting may become excessive. Early therapy for dogs showing this kind of gastric distress involves the withholding of solid food until the vomiting has stopped for at least twelve hours. This technique is designed to give the dog’s stomach and intestines time to recover from the spasms caused by the indigestion.
Water and crushed ice can and should be offered often during this time in small amounts to avoid dehydration. After the initial withholding period, food should be restricted to the soft and bland for the next 24 hours or so. The ideal diet after a withholding period includes one easily-digestible carbohydrate paired with a mild protein source. Cooked rice, pasta or potatoes make suitable carbohydrates, and healthy protein choices may include skinless white chicken meat, non-fat cottage cheese, or unseasoned boiled ground beef.