What is Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning?
The primary oil extracted from the pennyroyal plant is known as pulegone. Low concentrates are used in some dental products, fragrances, and herbal medicines to name a few. Extracted by cold pressing from the plant, the oil has a history of use in human remedies as well as a flea repellent for animals. Adverse, even dangerous, effects have been reported. The pulegone found in the oil is known to be extremely toxic to the liver. For this reason, it is advised to avoid this substance altogether, whether dried as a tea for human consumption, or for dermal therapeutical use in animals.
Pennyroyal oil is an essential oil extracted from the perennial plant which is botanically classified as mentha pulegium (Europe) and hedeoma pulegioides (North America). The oil from the pennyroyal plant is known to be harmful to both humans and animals, with documented cases of toxicity and death in dogs resulting from its accidental ingestion and its use as a flea repellent.
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Symptoms of Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning in Dogs
There is not an abundance of literature published on the toxic effects of the pennyroyal plant, whether it be the plant itself, the leaves, or the oil extracted from it. What is known, is that the use of pulegone can be toxic to the canine system. Pet owners should use extreme caution, or even better, avoid the use altogether of this product. Documentation of a dog who was exposed to a small amount of pennyroyal oil with the intent of repelling fleas died after displaying the following symptoms. The adverse reaction to the drug began to take effect within one hour of the pennyroyal oil use.
- Coughing up of blood (hemoptysis)
- Bleeding from the nose (epistaxis)
- Loss of consciousness
Causes of Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning in Dogs
Natural supplements must be used with knowledge and caution. Just because a product is touted as all natural does not mean that it can be used liberally and freely without taking care to learn about the possible side effects. Studies on the use of pennyroyal oil may shed a light on the toxicity of this plant and therefore, lead to stricter access.
Of course, no one intentionally uses a harmful product on their family pet. But purchasing a flea repellent thought to be natural, is a possible occurrence, as is the accidental ingestion by your canine family member. Pennyroyal oil does have a minty aroma that could be appealing to our pets. There is also the chance of ingestion of the plant which is most commonly found in Europe.
The effects on the body are tissue necrosis and damage in the liver, kidney damage, high blood pressure, hemorrhage in organs such as liver, stomach, small intestine, heart, and lungs, and accelerated heart rate, all pointing to the signs of poisoning.
Diagnosis of Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning in Dogs
Poisoning by pennyroyal oil is not easily diagnosed. If you have evidence that your dog has ingested a product containing the oil, or if you have used a flea repellent containing this substance, immediate veterinary care is essential. If you have packaging that you can bring to the clinic, be sure to remember to bring it. Your pet may be in serious condition and every piece of information you can provide will be of great assistance.
In the cases where an owner is not aware of why their pet is ill, the similarity to other conditions makes the diagnosis more difficult to reach. Sometimes the vomitus of the pet will have a minty odor, or the skin of the dog gives off an usually mint-like smell, leading the veterinarian to suspect a toxicity. Though the veterinarian may run tests on the blood or do an analysis of the urine, these tests can show the result of the toxicity and damage but not the cause. Vomitus or contents of a gastric lavage would have to be sent to a veterinary toxicologist for investigation.
Treatment of Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning in Dogs
Stabilizing a dog who is suffering toxic effects from pennyroyal oil poisoning will be first and foremost, as will the attempt to remove the toxin from the body. Your veterinarian will induce vomiting and administer active charcoal which is used to bind the poisonous pennyroyal oil together to aid in detoxification. Other treatments, such as for liver decontamination, will depend on the way the pennyroyal oil is affecting your dog. The use of N-Acetylcysteine as a therapy to the breaking down of toxins is under study since attempts thus far have proven positive. Emerging methods are continually under trial to try and advance scientific knowledge in this area.
Recovery of Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning in Dogs
Documentation on canines and pennyroyal poisoning is not well provided. What is known though, is that this substance seems to be more harmful to pets than humans (though the use is highly discouraged for humans also, due to the dangers associated with use). One case study documented that a dog who had received an application of pennyroyal oil as a flea repellent succumbed to multiple organ damage, hemorrhage, and failure, even though the dog was shampooed within an hour of application due to negative effects. She was brought to the vet, received intensive supportive care, yet was deceased within 36 hours.
Be vigilant in checking and knowing the ingredients of all products used for your pet, and for your family. It is always wisest to use a veterinarian approved product under the supervision of your veterinarian when attempting flea eradication or any other health issue.