What is Plum Poisoning?
Plums are grown on large shrubs or small trees with pretty white flowers similar to apple blossoms. The fruits can be up to six inches around and vary depending on the species, which can range from yellow to black. Each fruit contains one large seed, which contains the toxins, hydrogen cyanide, amygdalin, prunasin, and cyanogen. If the seed (pit or stone) is eaten whole, the acids in the intestinal tract will dissolve it and release the toxins into the bloodstream, spreading them through your dog’s body.
Plums are one of several fruits that contain hydrogen cyanide, which is extremely toxic to dogs if eaten. The highest concentration is in the plum pit, but there is also a substantial enough amount in the foliage and roots to cause gastric irritation and possible respiratory distress if eaten. There are several other toxic substances in the plum, such as amygdalin, prunasin, and cyanogen. These can all cause symptoms similar to cyanide, which slows the oxidative process and destroys blood cells, causing respiratory arrest. If your dog is suffering from plum poisoning, you will likely notice vomiting, tremors, difficulty breathing, and it can be fatal within an hour if not treated right away.
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Symptoms of Plum Poisoning in Dogs
All parts of the plum plant contain hydrogen cyanide, including the leaves, stem, roots, and the plum pit. This toxin stops the cell respiration as a non-competitive inhibitor for an enzyme in the mitochondria that is referred to as cytochrome c oxidase, causing asphyxiation in the cells. There is plenty of oxygen in the blood, but the cells do not know how to use it. The end result without treatment is respiratory collapse and death, but the most common symptoms are:
- Reddened gums, tongue, and mouth
- Breathing difficulty
- Dilated pupils
- Panting heavily
- Rapid breathing
- Foaming at the mouth
- Shock (confusion, dizziness, fainting)
- Respiratory collapse (inability to breathe)
- Death (without treatment)
The scientific name for the plum genus is Prunus from the Rosaceae family, although the most common are Prunus Domestica and Prunus Americana with dozens of cultivars in each. Some of the most common subspecies in the Prunus Domestica species are:
- Imperial gage
- Yellow egg
- Blue rock
Causes of Plum Poisoning in Dogs
- Amygdalin is a cyanohydrin which slowly releases cyanide into the bloodstream
- Cyanogen is one of the fastest and most potent natural toxins known
- Hydrogen cyanide is released from cyanogenic glycosides when chewed on
- Prunasin is not well understood, but is a precursor to cyanide
Diagnosis of Plum Poisoning in Dogs
It is essential that you take your pet to see a veterinary professional immediately if you even suspect plum poisoning because death can occur quickly. Do not wait to call your veterinarian to make an appointment; go to the nearest animal clinic or veterinary hospital right away. This is a life-threatening emergency that must be treated without delay. The veterinarian should be able to confirm plum poisoning by looking at your dog’s gums, which will be bright red or pink due to the highly oxygenated blood.
While your pet is being treated for plum poisoning, the veterinarian will do a complete physical examination, check vital signs, weight, reflexes, breath sounds, abdominal palpation, and oxygen level. In addition, any necessary laboratory tests will be done such as a blood urea nitrogen (BUN), complete blood count (CBC), packed cell volume (PCV), urinalysis, and a serum biochemical profile to look for elevated ammonia and amino acids which are classic confirmations of cyanide poisoning.
Treatment of Plum Poisoning in Dogs
With plum poisoning, the veterinarian will start treatment right away, before any kind of testing can be done. The priority is to get the cyanide and other toxins out of your dog’s system before the liver becomes overloaded and seizures damage the brain.
Either sodium nitrite or methylene blue will be administered through intravenous (IV), which will promote methemoglobin formation in the blood. This will mix with the cyanide and create cyanomethemoglobin, removing the cyanide from the blood. If this does not work right away, the veterinarian may consider thiosulfate, which promotes the formation of rhodanese-catalyzed thiocyanide and rids the body of the cyanide.
Hospitalization is always necessary for at least 24 hours to monitor your pet and treat any complications. During hospitalization, the veterinary staff will continue to observe your dog, and provide oxygen, fluids, and other necessary care during recovery.
Recovery of Plum Poisoning in Dogs
Your dog’s prognosis depends on how many plum pits your dog consumed, the timeliness of the therapy, and how well the treatment goes. If you were able to obtain treatment for your pet right away, chances of recovery are good. Your dog may spend several days in the hospital and will need careful monitoring and plenty of rest when you get home.
Plum Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog ingested a slice of plum that I had prepared for myself before the doorbell rang. She only ate one thin, round slice and it was unripe. I'm a tad worried although this happened about an hour ago, she has no symptoms. Will my puppy be Alright? Thanks much!
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There are dried up prunes/plums in my backyard, i think my puppy may have swallowed 2 of them. He's about 17 lbs, and hasn't shown any symptoms so far. I've seen him throw one up as well as poop one out before when i didn't know he'd gotten to them. But i know this time and i want to take all precautions, what are your recommendations?
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