What is Red-Margined Dracaena Poisoning?
The red-margined dracaena is a common tree (or houseplant) with an evergreen color and long, stiff, leaves with red edges (or margins). The entire red-margined dracaena is poisonous to dogs, although the most toxic parts are the leaves. The symptoms your dog exhibits can range from mild intestinal issues to serious cardiac disturbances. Because the red-margined dracaena cannot tolerate cold weather, they are often grown indoors, which is why it is frequently a cause of plant poisoning. If you believe your dog ate any part of a red-margined dracaena, you should call your veterinarian immediately or take your dog to the animal hospital or clinic.
The red-margined dracaena is toxic to your dog as well as other small pets and children. Although it can grow outdoors in warm climates, such as Florida and Louisiana, it is most often seen as an indoor plant in the home or office. If your dog eats any part of the red-margined dracaena, the symptoms shown can vary depending on how much and what part of the plant your dog consumed. The leaves of the red-margined dracaena plant are the most toxic, and can cause serious side effects such as an increased heart rate and can even cause your dog to lose control of his bodily functions. Because this is a plant that many people have in their homes, it is commonly the cause of plant toxicity.
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Symptoms of Red-Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
Unfortunately, because the red-margined dracaena is a common plant, poisoning is not uncommon. Symptoms of poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- Appetite loss
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive drooling
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of control over bodily movements
- Stomach irritation
- Walking difficulty
The red-margined dracaena plant is in the scientific Asparagaceae family, the order of asparagales, and of the genus marginata. This is a tropical plant that can grow up to 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide if grown outside in the right conditions. It has long, thin evergreen leaves with red edges, which is where it got the nickname red-margined dracaena. Some of the other common names of the red-margined dracaena are:
- Dragon tree
- Dracaena marginata
- Madagascar dragon tree
- Ribbon tree
- Straight-margined dracaena
Causes of Red-Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
The toxic chemicals in the red-margined dracaena plant are steroidal saponins which have a foaming component that causes intestinal upset. These toxic glycoside compounds vary in strength depending on the part of the plant eaten. Saponins are not usually absorbed in a healthy dog’s digestive tract, but there are other unknown irritants in the dracaena that can make your dog more susceptible, causing vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea similar to gastroenteritis. Like other poisonous plants, the red-margined dracaena has an unpleasant taste, but some dogs will eat it anyway.
Diagnosis of Red-Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
Bring a portion of the red-margined dracaena with you to the veterinarian to help aid in diagnosis. When you arrive, the veterinary team will perform a physical examination, including overall condition, heart rate, breath sounds, respiratory rate, blood pressure, body temperature, weight, reflexes, and oxygen levels. Be sure to give the veterinarian all the details about the incident, such as how much and what part of the plant your dog ate. You should also tell the veterinarian about your dog’s health history, vaccination records, unusual behavior, or appetite changes.
Laboratory tests will be done next, including biochemical profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), electrolyte and glucose levels. To check if your dog is dehydrated, a packed cell volume (PCV) test will probably be done. An endoscopy could also be performed to view the esophagus and remove any plant material. This procedure is done using an endoscope, which is a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end. Your dog will most likely be anesthetized during the procedure. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is sometimes performed to measure the electrical and muscular performance of the heart. Imaging done with x-ray, CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound may also be necessary.
Treatment of Red-Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment depends on how much your dog ate and what symptoms have been noticed. The veterinarian may induce vomiting with a hydrogen peroxide solution if necessary. In addition, activated charcoal is used to absorb the saponins. Depending on the electrolyte levels and PCV results, the veterinarian may need to give your dog IV fluids. This rehydrates and helps flush the toxins from the system. Gastric lavage can be done to further empty the stomach of any toxins left in your dog’s body. Other supportive therapy may be given depending on your dog’s needs.
Recovery of Red-Margined Dracaena Poisoning in Dogs
If treated within the first 24 hours, and if there have been no cardiac symptoms, the prognosis is good. If you have any questions or concerns about how well your pet is recovering, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian. To prevent this from happening again, it is best to remove any red-margined dracaena plants you may have inside and outside your home.
Red-Margined Dracaena Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog ate some dried leaves of a red-margined dracaena out of the trash can. Will she get sick? Should I stay home from work to watch her? What should I do now? Do just have to wait? Is there a way to prevent her from getting sick?
Symptoms of red-margined dracaena poisoning are thankfully not extremely severe; vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling and an unsteady gait are usual symptoms. You could induce vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide and after vomiting give activated charcoal; also wash out Sassy’s mouth as the saponins cause irritation which leads to drooling. Otherwise keep an eye on her, but if you are concerned or see no improvement visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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