What is Mother of Millions Poisoning?
Out of all the Kalanchoe species, the Mother of millions is one of the most common and beautiful. Unfortunately, they are also considered a restricted invasive plant that cannot be planted, sold, or given away without a permit because of the danger to livestock and other grazing animals. There have been many instances of large groups of cattle being poisoned from eating these toxic beauties. Originally from Madagascar, mother of millions can be found in Florida, Hawaii, and the Canary Islands, spreading fast, which is why it has the name mother of millions. The toxins in this plant create an electrolyte imbalance in the heart muscle, interrupting the electrical functions of the heart and causing cardiac arrest.
Mother of millions poisoning in dogs is a serious condition caused by the ingestion of part of any of the 125 species of Kalanchoe spp. These plants all contain bersalgenins, bryophyllins, daigremontianin, bryotoxins, and bersaldegenin 1 3 5 orthoacetate, which are bufadienolide cardiac glycosides. The whole plant is toxic, but the highest amount of poison is concentrated in the flowers. These toxins cause a condition called cardiac poisoning, which affects the electrical functioning of the heart and produces irregular heartbeat, heart rhythm imbalance, and eventually cardiac shutdown.
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Symptoms of Mother of Millions Poisoning in Dogs
There are two types of mother of millions poisonings, which are acute and chronic. The acute form of poisoning is caused by an episode of a large consumption of mother of millions, and can be fatal within 24 hours without treatment. Chronic is from your dog eating a small amount of mother of millions often for at least five days, which causes a slower rate of poisoning, but eventually becomes serious. The most common symptoms are:
- Dilated pupils
- Abnormal heart rate
- Breathing difficulty
- Gastric upset (vomiting, diarrhea)
- Cyanosis (blue tint to skin and mucous membranes)
- Labored breathing
- Weak and irregular heartbeat
- Cardiac arrest
The scientific name for mother of millions is Kalanchoe tubiflora from the Crassulaceae family. Mother of millions is also known as:
- Chandelier plant
- Devil’s backbone
- Mother in law plant
Causes of Mother of Millions Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of mother of millions poisoning in dogs is the consumption of Kalanchoe tubiflora, which has five different bufadienolide cardiac glycosides:
- Bersaldegenin 1,3,5-orthoacetate
Diagnosis of Mother of Millions Poisoning in Dogs
Diagnosing mother of millions poisoning in dogs depends a lot on how much information you can give the veterinarian. If you bring a photograph or a sample of the plant your dog ingested, that could make things easier and speed up the process. However, the veterinarian will also rely on the physical examination and laboratory tests. Bring your pet’s medical records if you have them handy and be sure you tell the veterinarian about any medications your dog is on. The physical examination will include body temperature, weight, height, reflexes, blood pressure, breath sounds, pulse and respiratory rates, and oxygen saturation level. A quick oral and vision check will be done and the veterinarian will take a good look at your dog’s coat and skin.
The laboratory tests will show increased blood urea nitrogen (BUN), magnesium, calcium, protein, creatinine, potassium, and glucose levels while the chloride will be decreased in a case of cardiac poisoning. Some of the necessary tests include a complete blood count (CBC), electrolyte levels, chemical profile, urinalysis, and stool sample analysis.
In addition, abdominal and chest x-rays will be taken to check for any blockages or abnormalities, and an ultrasound may be needed to determine if there is any internal damage. Although there are certain blood tests available that may detect the cardiac glycosides and monitor the levels of glycosides in your dog’s body, the high cost of these tests may limit their accessibility for diagnosis.
Treatment of Mother of Millions Poisoning in Dogs
Because cardiac glycosides are so quickly absorbed, treating mother of millions poisoning is a bit different than other poisoning cases. Rather than trying to induce vomiting in order to remove the toxins, the veterinarian will likely skip that step and go straight to decontamination, medication, and observation. In fact, if your pet is having a serious cardiac event or breathing difficulty, the veterinarian will start your dog on oxygen and intravenous fluids right away; before the examination is done. The veterinarian will also hook your dog up to an electrocardiogram machine to keep an eye on the heart’s electrical activity before progressing any further.
To properly decontaminate your dog, activated charcoal will be given by mouth to absorb any undigested toxins. Also, a gastric lavage will be done to clear the stomach and intestinal system. If intravenous (IV) fluids have not already been started, the veterinarian will do that now to flush the kidneys and prevent dehydration.
To control the cardiac irregularities, the veterinarian will likely give heart rhythm medication, such as atropine or lidocaine. Stomach protectants and muscle relaxants may be given as well.
An overnight stay for observation is common, especially if your dog has trouble breathing or cardiac irregularities.
Recovery of Mother of Millions Poisoning in Dogs
Mother of millions poisoning is usually easy to recover from if your dog is healthy to begin with and you can obtain treatment right away. It also depends on the amount eaten, but if you get to the clinic before the toxins are absorbed, chances of a full recovery are good. Be sure to call your veterinarian if you have any questions about the rate of your companion’s recuperation and be sure to move the mother of millions plants to an area that your pet cannot access it.