What is Palm Lily Poisoning?
Palm lilies are usually not found outdoors in the United States or Canada, but are found in tropical regions of Asia and Australia. These plants are actually considered small trees when grown outdoors because they can grow up to 20 feet tall with huge leaves about two feet in length. However, when grown in cooler climates the palm lily is usually grown as a potted plant indoors and only reaches about five feet tall at most. The evergreen leaves are long and wide and have panicles of yellow or red flowers that eventually turn into berries, which can be very toxic to your pet. They contain the same toxic saponin that the rest of the plant and its roots have, which can cause moderate to severe side effects.
Palm lily poisoning in dogs can be a very serious condition caused by the consumption of palm lily root, flower, berries, or foliage. The toxic elements in the palm lily are steroidal saponins and glycosides, which can produce side effects such as gastroenteritis (irritation of the digestive tract, diarrhea, vomiting), lack of growth, and even the damage and rupture of red blood cells. In addition, if your dog eats part of a palm lily, it is likely to cause appetite loss, weight loss, and heartbeat irregularity. In severe cases, saponins may cause coma and death if not treated right away due to the hemoglobin leaking into the bloodstream from the damaged red blood cells.
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Symptoms of Palm Lily Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has eaten part of a palm lily, the first things you may notice are drooling and vomiting, but these symptoms can quickly become serious if not treated immediately. The most often seen side effects in dogs are:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Foaming at the mouth
- Vomiting (sometimes with foam and blood)
- Refusing to eat
- Loss of control of muscles
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle spasms or jerks
- Heartbeat irregularity (rapid or too slow)
- Weak heartbeat
- Convulsions (rare)
- Coma (rare)
- Death (rare)
The palm lily is referred to as Cordyline fruticosa or Dracaena terminalis in the Asparagales order from the Asparagaceae family. It is also commonly known as:
- Cabbage palm or tree
- Fountain dracaena
- Good luck plant
- Ti plant
- Grass palm
- False palm
- New Zealand cabbage palm
- Giant dracaena
Causes of Palm Lily Poisoning in Dogs
Palm lily poisoning is caused by various steroidal saponins and glycosides in the leaves, flowers, berries, and roots. Side effects such as gastroenteritis (irritation of the digestive tract, diarrhea, vomiting), lack of growth, and even the damage and rupture of red blood cells can be caused by the ingestion of the plant. Consuming the plant causes issues with the heart as well that can lead to fatal consequences.
Diagnosis of Palm Lily Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms can mimic many other conditions so it is essential that you see a veterinary professional even if you do not notice any side effects. The veterinarian will have to rule out other conditions with a physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging. It is also helpful if you bring a sample or picture of the plant. Tell the veterinarian as much information as you can and bring a copy of your pet’s medical and shot records if available. Also, be sure to mention any medications you have given your dog, whether it is prescription or over the counter.
The physical examination will include age, weight, height, body temperature, reflexes, breath sounds, oxygen levels, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate. At this time, the veterinarian may get a urine and stool sample for microscopic evaluation. Additionally, an endoscopy will be done to get a look at the throat and airway to check for inflammation, obstruction, and plant residue. The veterinarian is able to insert tools into the endoscope to remove any foreign objects from the airway. The laboratory tests needed to rule out other similar ailments are a CBC (complete blood count), biochemistry panel, liver enzyme panel, blood glucose, BUN (blood urea nitrogen), and PCV (packed cell volume). Abdominal imaging that may be done are x-rays (digital radiographs), ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resource imaging), and CT (computerized topography) scans. If your dog has any cardiac irregularities, the veterinarian will also want to perform an EKG (electrocardiograph) to measure the heart’s electrical output.
Treatment of Palm Lily Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment for palm lily poisoning depends on the severity of your dog’s symptoms and test results. Most often, the standard treatment includes evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation.
Giving your pet an emetic medication, such as ipecac or hydrogen peroxide will help encourage vomiting. If the first dose is not successful, it can be repeated again after about 20 - 30 minutes. Also, activated charcoal will be given by mouth to absorb any undigested poisonous substances.
To flush the kidneys, your dog will be given intravenous (IV) fluids. This will also help decrease the chance of dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, the veterinarian may also want to do a gastric lavage to cleanse the digestive system.
For treating palm lily poisoning, the veterinarian may give your dog antidiarrheal medication, omeprazole for stomach acid control, and atropine for cardiac symptoms, if needed.
If your dog is still having serious symptoms, your veterinarian may suggest an overnight stay in the hospital for observation. This way, your dog can get additional treatment when necessary.
Recovery of Palm Lily Poisoning in Dogs
Your dog’s prognosis is good if you obtained treatment right away or if only a small amount of palm lily was consumed. Even if your pet ingested a large amount, as long as you took him to a veterinary professional in a timely manner, he should recover well. Be sure to give your pet the prescriptions as directed and return for a follow up visit as the veterinarian advises.