What is Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Poisoning?
The purple coneflower is drought tolerant and easy to care for making it a nice addition to gardens. The medicinal qualities of the plant have been known for centuries, with uses of the echinacea contained in the flower being used as toothache and snakebite remedies in the past. Now used mainly for its immunostimulatory benefits, the purple coneflower is harvested as an herbal remedy for many illnesses and conditions, such as fending off or shortening the duration of colds and treating the early stages of the upper respiratory illness in humans. Studies show that this plant also has uses in the internal medicine, urological, and dermatological fields.
The purple coneflower is not listed as toxic to canines, but the ingestion of a large amount may result in undesirable effects that can cause discomfort for your pet. Mild stomach upset may result as the digestive systems of dogs are not designed to break down large quantities of plant material. All parts of the purple coneflower contain the echinacea, and though the roots are known to contain higher concentrations (known as odorous compounds), the flowers of this species contain the properties that benefit the immune system.
The purple coneflower is a plant that flourishes well and is found all over North America. Also known for its herbaceous benefits, ingestion of large quantities of this flower by canines can cause mild to moderate toxicity.
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Symptoms of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Poisoning in Dogs
There are no reports of a canine falling severely ill due to the ingestion of the echinacea compound of the purple coneflower or the plant material itself. However, the ingestion of any potentially toxic plant should always be evaluated by a veterinarian. Though the symptoms may be generally mild in severity, factors like age and size of your pet may have a bearing on the toxicity.
- Abdominal tenderness
- Vocalization of pain
Three species of the purple coneflower are known for medicinal properties.
- Echinacea purpurea is also called the purple coneflower, the hedge coneflower, and the Eastern purple coneflower
- Echinacea angustifolia is known as elk root, narrow-leaved purple coneflower, and black samson echinacea
- Echinacea pallida is also called the pale purple coneflower
Causes of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Poisoning in Dogs
Toxicity due to ingestion of the purple coneflower may be caused by several factors.
- Underlying disease processes can exacerbate the effects of the ingestion
- The echinacea may have contraindications to the medications your pet is taking
- The age of the pet can cause varying reactions to ingestion of the purple coneflower
- Dogs do not have a digestive system conducive to processing plant material
- Small dogs who ingest the plant may have a harder time processing the echinacea stems, leaves, and flowers
Diagnosis of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Poisoning in Dogs
If you see your pet ingesting a plant from the garden or find him with remnants of plant material on his face or in the mouth, having a veterinarian evaluate the situation is always a good idea, particularly if you are not certain of the type of plant that was consumed or in what location your dog found the plant. There is always the possibility that a plant eaten from a neighboring garden or park area could have been sprayed with pesticides. The plant that your pet ingested may not be poisonous but the pesticide is. Also, an intestinal blockage could occur if your dog is having trouble passing the plant material through the body.
Bring a sample of the plant to the clinic if possible. This is helpful to the veterinary team as determining the type of plant can be indicative of the treatment protocol. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination that will include palpation of the abdomen to look for a mass of plant material that may be present. In addition, she will check your dog’s heart rate, pulse, lung sounds, mucous membranes appearance, and reflexes.
Standard tests that will be recommended are a complete blood count, urinalysis, and analysis of a fecal sample. These diagnostic tools will determine if there are underlying diseases present that may have an influence on your pet’s reaction to the purple coneflower ingestion. This will also rule out other types of toxicity that have symptoms similar to what your dog is exhibiting. During the diagnostic process your veterinarian will discuss with you any medications your pet is taking at present, recent illnesses, travel history of late, eating habits, and activity level.
Treatment of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Poisoning in Dogs
In most cases, exposure to the purple coneflower will result in very mild symptoms. The treatment that the veterinarian decides is necessary will depend on whether your pet is feeling ill due to the ingestion of the plant. Other factors that may determine treatment are how much of the plant was consumed, your dog’s age, and his current state of health. On occasion, older pets or health compromised dogs may experience a toxicity that is more severe than a younger or healthier canine. For example, if there are preexisting liver, kidney, or stomach issues, the echinacea compounds in the plant may exacerbate the condition.
If your dog is vomiting excessively when he arrives at the clinic, the veterinarian may administer intravenous therapy to balance electrolytes and provide fluids which will help to flush the toxins from the body. Antiemetics can be given to your dog to combat nausea. If there is an issue with eliminating the flower material from the body by normal means, cathartic medication to help your pet pass the plant matter more easily will be given. Your pet will be carefully monitored and once the clinical team is confident that he is feeling better, he will be able to go home.
Recovery of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Poisoning in Dogs
Typically, the purple coneflower does not cause dangerous symptoms in canines. A mild gastrointestinal upset is the usual result, but even though the risk of poisoning is low care should be taken to avoid allowing your dog to eat plants and flowers at will. Planting dog-safe grasses in your garden to satisfy the grazing needs and desires of your dog is the safest option. The veterinarian will advise you on the special dietary needs, if any, after the ingestion of the coneflower. If your dog’s stomach is still sensitive to the event, an easy to process bland diet may be recommended for a period of several days.