What is Oilcloth Flower Poisoning ?
The oilcloth flower is a tropical plant native to South America, but has been hybridized to grow in states with warm climates in the United States, such as Florida. In other areas where the climate is not as warm, the oilcloth flower is grown indoors as a houseplant. Unfortunately, the plant can be very dangerous indoors where your pets can get to them easier. The toxins contained in this beautiful flower may cause your dog severe pain and suffering from the inflammation caused by the crystals and oxalic acid. The swelling can be serious enough to cause the airway to be compromised, making it hard for your dog to breathe.
The oilcloth flower has a natural poison to repel insects and other predators that can cause toxicity in dogs and other pets. One of the poisons in the plant is insoluble calcium oxalate which contains microscopic crystals. These crystals are as sharp as needles and can embed themselves into your dog’s soft tissues. Just one bite of this pretty flowering plant causes pain instantly and most dogs will stop eating after that. However, there are some dogs that will keep eating despite the pain, which can be fatal if a large enough amount is consumed. There are also proteolytic enzymes, which trigger a dangerous allergic reaction, and oxalic acid, which can cause a burning and blistering dermatitis and intense abdominal pain. Whether your dog has symptoms or not, it is important to see a veterinary professional anyway just to be sure there is no serious underlying damage.
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Symptoms of Oilcloth Flower Poisoning in Dogs
Since biting into the oilcloth flower or its foliage causes instant pain and swelling, you will likely notice your dog yelping, drooling, or lip smacking. Some of the other common side effects are:
- Foaming at the mouth
- Shaking of the head
- Oral pain
- Pawing at the mouth
- Swelling of the lips or tongue
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty swallowing
- Struggling to breathe
- Heart arrhythmia (rare)
- Coma (rare)
- Death (rare)
The scientific name of the oilcloth flower is Anthurium andraeanum from the Araceae family in the Anthurieae tribe. It is also known by many other names, including:
- Tail flower
- Pigtail plant
- Painter's pallet
- Flamingo plant
- Flamingo lily
- Flamingo flower
Causes of Oilcloth Flower Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of oilcloth flower poisoning is the ingestion of any part of a plant in the Araceae family. There are several toxins in the oilcloth flower, which are:
- Calcium oxalate crystals cause pain on contact, inflammation, vomiting
- Oxalic acid which may produce blisters, convulsions, and vomiting
- Proteolytic enzymes induce the release of histamine and an allergic reaction that may be serious
Diagnosis of Oilcloth Flower Poisoning in Dogs
When you go to the veterinary clinic, try to bring a sample of the plant or a photograph. Be sure to tell the veterinarian what your pet ate and how much, and bring medical and immunization records. Also, tell her if your dog is on any kind of medication, what symptoms you have noticed, and when they started. Your dog will get a comprehensive physical examination, checking body weight, temperature, reflexes, heart rate, pulse, breath sounds, blood pressure, skin and coat condition, and oxygen levels. The veterinarian will also need to perform some laboratory tests to rule out other conditions or disease. These will include a urinalysis to check glucose levels and specific gravity, CBC to find the amounts of hemoglobin, red and white blood cells, and platelets, and a chemical profile to determine the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, creatinine, albumin, protein, bilirubin, and potassium. Abdominal x-rays (digital radiographs) and an ultrasound will be done to see how bad the inflammation is and if there are any obstructions.
Treatment of Oilcloth Flower Poisoning in Dogs
There is a specific protocol for calcium oxalate poisoning which includes evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation. However, this can vary depending on the situation.
Evacuation includes giving your dog ipecac or hydrogen peroxide to produce emesis (vomiting) and activated charcoal to absorb any undigested toxins that may be remaining in the digestive tract.
A 15-minute gastric lavage with warm water is performed with a flexible tube inserted into the abdominal cavity through the mouth. This will thoroughly rinse away any remaining sap or plant materials. Also, intravenous (IV) fluids will be given to flush your pet’s kidneys and prevent dehydration.
Medications depend on your dog’s symptoms, but may include antiemetics for vomiting, omeprazole for stomach irritation, and corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation.
Unless there are serious symptoms or a large amount of oilcloth flower was consumed, your dog will be sent home for observation. Otherwise, your veterinarian will want to keep an eye on your dog for complications.
Recovery of Oilcloth Flower Poisoning in Dogs
There is a good chance of 100% recovery if you obtained treatment for your pet right away. However, if a large amount was eaten or the toxins were already in the bloodstream upon arrival at the clinic, the prognosis is guarded. Once your pet is released and is recuperating at home, continue to watch him for side effects and call your veterinarian with any concerns.