What is Needlepoint Ivy Poisoning?
Needlepoint ivy is a climbing, easy to care for ivy. These qualities make it a popular type of ivy to cover landscapes. While it is easy to keep, it is toxic to your dog if he ingests it. Toxicity symptoms vary from mild, such as gastrointestinal upset, to severe symptoms such as respiratory distress and coma. If you suspect that your pet sampled the plant or witnessed your dog chewing on or ingesting this foliage, alert your veterinarian as soon as possible. Do not wait for symptoms to appear because the saponins contained within the plant can make your dog very ill, leading to a life-threatening situation.
Needlepoint ivy is a hardy type of foliage with low maintenance needs making it an ideal plant for many people. Unfortunately, this plant is toxic to your dog with signs of illness that can be mild or can lead to serious consequences. If your pet ingests any part of the needlepoint ivy, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
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Symptoms of Needlepoint Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The onset of needlepoint ivy poisoning in your dog will vary depending on the amount your dog ingested. Toxicity symptoms include
- Excessive drooling
- Swelling of mucus membranes
- Abdominal pain
- Contact dermatitis
- Eye irritant
- Increased thirst
- Dilated pupils
- Respiratory distress
- Irregular heart rate
There are many types of ivy plants, but the needlepoint ivy produces leaves of a rich dark green color with lighter green veins throughout. The leaves are three-lobed with thin pointed tips similar to the shape of a bird’s foot. This distinct look gives the needlepoint ivy its name. Other interchangeable common names this plant is known by include birdsfoot ivy, English ivy, branching ivy, glacier ivy, sweetheart ivy, and California ivy. The scientific name is Hedera helix. This ivy needs very little support to grow and thrive making it popular for covering landscapes.
Causes of Needlepoint Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The toxic component of needlepoint ivy is known as triterpenoid saponins. Very little is known about these exact enzymes. Saponins disrupt normal cell growth pathways leading to cell death. They also have a foaming action which causes the gastrointestinal upset.
Diagnosis of Needlepoint Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
When you take your dog to the veterinarian, the team will begin with a physical examination. Vitals will be taken and abnormalities will be noted. Blood work and other laboratory work may be performed to diagnose any internal damage. A complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel, and packed cell volume (PCV) will provide the veterinarian with a broader understanding of how the organs are filtering the blood. A urinalysis may also be performed to assess the kidneys.
If your dog is vomiting at the veterinarian’s office, she will examine the contents for any clues as to what your dog ingested. If he is not vomiting, she may induce vomiting to rid the stomach of any remaining plant particles. If your dog is having diarrhea, a fecal sample will be collected and tested to rule out internal parasites or bacterial overgrowth.
If your dog is experiencing abdominal pain, a radiograph may be taken to check for any type of blockage or abnormality of an internal organ. The radiograph will also allow her to take a closer look at his heart and lungs if he is experiencing cardiac or respiratory issues. The veterinarian may want to perform an ultrasound or an ECG as another form of assessment of the heart.
Treatment of Needlepoint Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is experiencing respiratory problems, he will be started on oxygen support immediately. If he is having mild respiratory distress, he may receive oxygen via flow by or may be placed in an oxygen cage. If he is suffering severe respiratory distress, the veterinarian may have to intubate and keep him on oxygen via intubation until he stabilizes.
Fluid therapy with electrolytes will be started quickly after arrival to correct for any dehydration your dog is experiencing and to prevent it from worsening. The fluids will also flush the toxin from his body system quicker resulting in a shortened recovery time. If your dog is vomiting uncontrollably without producing substance, the veterinarian may administer an antiemetic to offer him some relief. Also, activated charcoal may be administered to bind any remaining toxins in his gastrointestinal tract to avoid further absorption by his body system.
If your dog’s body temperature is too high, cooling methods will be started. The veterinarian will keep him cool with water, ice packs, and fans and will monitor his temperature constantly. She will cool him slowly and safely until his body temperature returns to normal.
Your dog will be kept on monitoring equipment until his heart returns to its normal function. The monitoring equipment will give constant readings of the heart beat and therefore the veterinarian will know exactly how the heart is functioning. If your dog’s heart rate is increased or part of his heart is malfunctioning, the veterinarian may administer medications to counteract these abnormalities. Additional supportive therapies and medications may be administered depending on your dog’s needs.
Recovery of Needlepoint Ivy Poisoning in Dogs
The amount of needlepoint ivy that was ingested will play a major role in your dog’s recovery. If a small amount was ingested and only mild symptoms of toxicity develop, prognosis for a full recovery is good. If he ingested a large amount or is suffering severe symptoms, the prognosis becomes guarded or poor.
If your dog experiences an elevated body temperature for too long, permanent brain damage may be a consequence. If the body isn’t cooled properly, the body literally cooks his brain. However, taking his temperature is one of the tasks completed upon arrival and therefore should have been caught early enough to prevent any lasting damage. Your dog will be kept in the hospital and on monitoring equipment until all vitals return to normal. Fluid therapy will be discontinued once all lab work comes back normal and your dog will be ready to go home.
Keeping the needlepoint ivy away from your pet is the best thing you can do for him. If you have this plant in your home, keep it at a height he cannot reach, even when standing on his hind legs. If you have this plant outside your home, keep it in an area your dog does not have access to. If either of these situations cannot be avoided, train your dog to not chew on or eat foliage. You may need to consider complete removal of the plant from your property.