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The mole bean plant is native to the Middle East and Africa, but is cultivated in many other areas for the production of castor oil. It is a fast-growing tree or large shrub that can grow up to 15 feet tall with large green or red leaves and green, red, or pink flowers. The male flowers grow on the bottom of the spike at the top of the plant, with the female flowers on the top of the spike. Once the flowers are finished blooming, red or brown spiny spheres, which contain several seeds (beans) that are the most poisonous part of the plant. The beans contain the ricin, which is a glycoprotein that prevents protein synthesis when eaten.
Mole bean plant poisoning is a life-threatening emergency caused by the toxic alkaloids, ricin and ricinine, in the beans (seeds). The mole bean is reported to be the most poisonous plant in the world and a category B bioterrorism substance by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It only takes the ingestion of five beans to kill a man, and just one or two may be lethal to your dog. Although the rest of the plant has a great deal less ricin than the beans, it is still toxic and can cause serious side effects if eaten by your pet. Some of the most noticeable side effects are severe, bloody diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, vomiting, and seizures.
If your dog has eaten mole beans, the symptoms may show up within 4-12 hours, with death occurring in 3-4 days without treatment. Some of the most commonly reported side effects are:
The scientific name of the Mole bean plant is Ricinus communis of the Euphobiaceae family. It is known by several other names, including:
The toxic substance, ricin, is one of the most poisonous substances in the world, but is only found in plants from the Ricinus genus of the Euphobiaceae family. The ricin has the ability to get inside your dog’s cells and stops it from making proteins, killing the cells and eventually causing death when enough cells have died.
Mole bean plant toxicity is such a serious condition that the veterinarian will want to get as much toxin out of your dog’s system as possible before conducting any tests. If it has only been a few hours since consumption, a hydrogen peroxide solution or ipecac syrup will be given to encourage emesis (vomiting). In addition, activated charcoal can be administered by mouth to absorb any toxins that have not been digested yet. This may be repeated, if necessary, depending on the amount of mole bean plant you think your dog consumed. Intravenous (IV) fluids will likely be started before testing as well, to keep your dog hydrated and flush the toxins out through the kidneys as quickly as possible.
Once this has all been completed and the veterinarian feels your dog is stable enough, a complete comprehensive physical examination will be performed. This includes height, weight, reflexes, coat and skin condition, body temperature, blood pressure, oxygen saturation level, pulse and respiration rate, and breath sounds. An electrocardiogram (EKG) will likely be used to monitor the electrical and muscular functions of the heart. Additionally, lab tests will need to be done which include liver enzyme panel, glucose level, chemical profile, blood count, and urinalysis. The veterinarian will be looking for increases in creatinine, phosphorous, blood sugar, and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). A parathyroid hormone test will also be done to check for higher than normal levels PTH. The urinalysis will usually show too much protein, glucose, and abnormal casts. Abdominal x-rays may be taken to check the condition and size of kidneys and other vital organs. If a closer look is necessary, the veterinarian may perform an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan.
The veterinarian may have already started treatment on your pet before examination, so the protocol will go right to detoxification, medications, and observation.
In some cases, the veterinarian may find it necessary to perform a gastric lavage to cleanse the digestive system. This is done by inserting a flexible tube into your dog’s mouth and down through the intestines to pump warm saline into the stomach. Any plant particles and residue will be washed away with the saline. Intravenous fluids will continue to prevent dehydration and flush the kidneys.
Diazepam is given for seizures, cimetidine or ranitidine for gastric upset, antiemetics for vomiting, and possibly a blood transfusion if your pet is hypovolemic from too much blood loss.
Hospitalization is usually recommended for observation for at least 24 hours, depending on symptoms and test results. While in the hospital, your dog can get oxygen, fluids, and additional medications if needed.
In many cases, the pet owner does not notice anything until the symptoms are evident, making recovery less likely. However, if you were able to obtain treatment before your pet was symptomatic, chances for a full recovery are good. In any case, prompt treatment by a veterinary professional can mean the difference between life and death.
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