What is Peacock Flower Poisoning?
The peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is also known as the pride of Barbados, the dwarf poinciana, and the Ohai Aliʻi. It grows throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas. It is an evergreen shrub with showy red and orange five-petaled flowers that is a striking ornamental and is attractive to many birds and insects, including hummingbirds. Studies conducted on laboratory animals have concluded that it may be useful in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and wounds. It is also moderately toxic in large doses, particularly the matured seeds.
The peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), is an evergreen shrub with showy red and orange flowers that can be moderately toxic to your canine.
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Symptoms of Peacock Flower Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of poisoning by the Caesalpinia pulcherrima plant, also known as the peacock flower, are similar to poisoning from other gastrointestinal irritants and moderate toxins, and usually start within an hour or two of ingestion. Symptoms that you may see from poisoning could include:
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
There are several plants in the Caesalpinia family of plants. Some other varieties that are related to the peacock flower include:
- Caesalpinia bonduc - A flowering vine-like shrub with curved spines on the stems; it is commonly known as the Grey Nicker
- Caesalpinia gilliesii - Commonly referred to as the bird of paradise bush, this plant is closely related to the peacock flower; it grows wild throughout the southwestern United States
- Caesalpinia kavaiensis - A flowering Caesalpinia native to Hawaii, this plant is threatened due to overeating by feral ungulates
- Caesalpinia sappan - This is a flowering tree known as sappanwood; it produces a red dye that is used for dyeing fabric and making inks and paints
Causes of Peacock Flower Poisoning in Dogs
The main toxic components that are contained in the Caesalpinia pulcherrima plant include a diterpene by the name of pulcherralpin and as well as other terpenoids and tannins but it carries within itself several of these compounds which may contribute to the toxic effect. Some of these compounds include:
Diagnosis of Peacock Flower Poisoning in Dogs
As the peacock flower is only mildly noxious, signs and symptoms that are more critical than vomiting or diarrhea are usually due to a secondary disorder or to a misidentification of the plant, although the vomiting and diarrhea can get intense, leading to dehydration. If the ingestion of the plant was unwitnessed your dog’s doctor might recommend a visit to the office based on the symptoms described. As the symptoms are general and could represent a number of toxins and disorders, your veterinarian will want as thorough a history as you can provide.
A urinalysis, biochemistry profile, and complete blood count will also be ordered to uncover any toxins or imbalances, however, the tannins and other compounds may not be detected. Any available stomach contents that were expelled will also be evaluated in order to confirm the preliminary diagnosis and material from the peacock flower may be detected in these contents, further confirming the diagnosis.
Treatment of Peacock Flower Poisoning in Dogs
For most canines, treatment for consumption of the peacock flower can be handled at home with comparative ease. It is important to contact your veterinarian before starting any sort of therapy, both to get specific instructions for your dog and to determine if either the response to the toxin or the amount eaten necessitates a visit to the veterinarian’s office. The primary therapy for canines who are showing gastric distress often includes the withholding of food until both the vomiting and the diarrhea have ceased for at least 12 hours. This method is designed to give the stomach muscles of your dog time to recover from the gastric spasms that the vomiting generally causes. Crushed ice and water should be offered in small amounts often to prevent dehydration.
After the initial withholding phase only soft, bland foods should be presented for at least a day or two. The ideal recovery diet would include a mild protein source like unseasoned boiled chicken or cottage cheese and one easily-digestible carbohydrate, such as rice or potatoes. When excessive vomiting or diarrhea become a concern, your veterinarian may recommend bringing your pet into their office for supportive treatment. IV fluid treatment to prevent dehydration will be administered at the doctor’s office, and medications such as Pepcid AC or Imodium may also be recommended for their gastroprotective properties.
Recovery of Peacock Flower Poisoning in Dogs
If unusually large quantities of the peacock flower are eaten or if your pet is particularly sensitive to the compounds in the plant, excessive nausea and vomiting may occur. One of the biggest dangers with such copious vomiting and diarrhea is the risk of dehydration. During the time when your companion is being affected by the toxin, you should monitor him carefully for signs of dehydration such as excessive panting, exhaustion, sunken eyes, loss of elasticity in the skin and unsteadiness when standing. These symptoms signal that your dog is in distress and your veterinarian should be contacted immediately for further instructions.