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What is Oleander Poisoning?

The oleander plant blooms through the summer into the fall season and is found along roadsides in the southern states, as well as the west coast of the United States. This plant can grow to heights over 6 feet tall and withstand dry conditions and wind. Also grown as a decorative plant for summer gardens in other parts of North America, the oleander is highly toxic and pets must be monitored at all times when in proximity of the tree.

Ingestion of any part of the oleander plant can lead to dire consequences for both humans and animals. The roots and stems contain the most toxins. The leaves and flowers are highly toxic as well, as are the seeds, fruit, nectar, and sap. Even standing water that may have had oleander leaves floating in it will have a poisonous component. The record of the death of a horse who ingested between 10 to 20 leaves proves that this plant can be lethal. Documentation states that most cases of poisoning are related to the leaves.

Signs of poisoning will include increased heart rate and diarrhea. Immediate veterinary care is essential to saving the life of canines who ingest the oleander; if you suspect this may have happened, consider it an emergency situation.

The oleander plant, scientifically known as Nerium oleander, can be deadly to humans and animals who ingest any part of the plant. Cardiac glycosides are present in the plant which affect the gastrointestinal, neurologic and cardiovascular systems severely enough that death is possible with even a small consumption of the plant.

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Oleander Poisoning Average Cost

From 419 quotes ranging from $600 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Oleander Poisoning in Dogs

Signs of oleander poisoning can be evident within an hour of your pet ingesting the plant. Do not wait for symptoms to appear because aggressive medical therapy is needed in this case. 

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lack of coordination
  • Inability to rise
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Cardiovascular dysrhythmias including fibrillation (quivering of the heart)
  • Collapse
  • Death

Types

The oleander found in North America is the Nerium oleander, which is the most familiar  of the species seen along roadsides or in gardens. There are many different colors of this member of Apocynaceae family, depending on the variety. The second most common type is the Thevetia peruviana, found in Mexico and Central America.

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Causes of Oleander Poisoning in Dogs

  • The main identified toxin is the cardiac glycoside oleandrin, which is similar to digitoxin (used in the treatment of heart failure)
  • Researchers believe there are 30 types of cardiac glycosides in the oleander 
  • Oleandrin is present in all parts of the plant whether fresh or dried
  • Cardiovascular, neurologic, and gastrointestinal systems are affected
  • The stomach can become inflamed
  • The electrical conduction of the heart is disturbed
  • The pulse is affected
  • Hyperkalemia (higher than normal potassium in the blood) can occur which affects the heart muscle, nerve cells, and muscle cells
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Diagnosis of Oleander Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your pet has ingested some of your oleander tree or you witnessed him doing so, you must treat it as an emergency situation and call your veterinarian to let him know you are on the way. An emergency clinic is also a wise option. Even if you believe that your dog may have eaten only a leaf or two, pets can react to a minimal amount of the plant. The toxicity can also depend on your pet’s size and present state of health.

If you are able to provide the time of the event, the approximate amount of ingestion, and the identification of the parts of the plant that were eaten, this will be of great help to the veterinary team. If possible, bring along a part of the plant.

Contingent on the condition of your dog when he arrives at the clinic, the veterinarian will do a physical examination including abdominal palpation, observance of mucus membranes and checking of pulse rate. There is no specific test for oleander poisoning and the tests that can point to this toxicity are not always time sensitive when results are needed in a hurry.

Blood tests can be indicative to the poisoning in that the presence of hyperkalemia  will be seen in the results. Other helpful markers will be glucose, BUN, and creatinine. An electrocardiogram can be done to verify abnormalities within the heart such as dysrhythmias.

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Treatment of Oleander Poisoning in Dogs

Most dogs who ingest the oleander plant will be hospitalized. If your pet is not vomiting already, the veterinarian will induce emesis. Active charcoal will then be given to your dog in an attempt to bind the poison for elimination. More than one administration is often necessary. 

Your dog’s heart will continue to be monitored, and this is sometimes needed for up to 24 hours. Intravenous therapy will be indicated because this method of medical aid can allow the veterinarian to give your dog drugs like antiemetics, gastroprotectants and medications to help improve the condition of the heart. Severely affected canines may need a temporary pacemaker if the heart is not responding to drug therapy.

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Recovery of Oleander Poisoning in Dogs

Canines who have received timely, aggressive care in a hospital setting can recover from oleander poisoning. Regaining strength and the return to full health may take time as your pet has been through a significant event. Provide a quiet restful place for him to recover. The veterinary team will advise you on any dietary recommendations there may be for the next few days or weeks. The veterinarian may want to schedule a follow-up appointment within a couple of days in order to verify that your dog is recovering fully. If you have questions or concerns as you monitor him at home, call the clinic without delay. For the future, remove access to the oleander tree. Keep your pet on a leash in areas near your home where the oleander may grow. If you plan to add new greenery to your garden space, research the plant well before making the purchase.

Oleander poisoning in dogs can be expensive to treat. To protect your dog and yourself in case of an accident or emergency, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Oleander Poisoning Average Cost

From 419 quotes ranging from $600 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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Oleander Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Rhodesian Ridgeback mix

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Drowsiness, Hot And Dry Nose, Difficulty Standing, And Drooling

He got out this morning and came back fine, until a couple of hours later, when he suddenly had these symptoms.

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 19, 2020

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Bella

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pitbull

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5months

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Mild severity

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4 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Darting Head Movements,

This is an update for Bella from an hour ago. She drinks water and is still hyper which is normal for her, she will also eat if she likes what you give her, right now she is chewing on ice cubes which she loves.so am not sure if oleander effect their drinking and eating habits? She seems to be doing a little better, tho is still darts her head back and forth just a little bit and holds her ears back.

Nov. 16, 2017

Bella's Owner


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4 Recommendations

The whole bush of oleander is considered toxic, if you believe that Bella has consumed any part of the bush you should get her to your Veterinarian immediately since the bush contains cardiac glycosides which can cause an abnormal heart rhythm and other anomalies. If you don’t know how long it was since it was consumed, inducing vomiting may be fruitless. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/oleander/ http://veterinaryteam.dvm360.com/dangerous-beauty-oleander-toxicosis-dogs-horses-and-more

Nov. 16, 2017

I think my 3 month old part Pitbull and Lab ate some of a root,He was fine but last night he was throwing up wouldn't eat,All day today he layed around then we thought of everything that it could be maybe bite by a snake then he remembered he brought a root of one in the house,I gave him some Nutri-stat paste he had a seizure then 10mins later as we was taking him to a vet,He started playing and running around like nothing never happen. Wonder if it was the paste that hepled

April 17, 2018

Shawna B.

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Oleander Poisoning Average Cost

From 419 quotes ranging from $600 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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