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The ribbon plant, commonly known as the genus Dracaena (Dracaena sp.), is a common ribbon-like plant which is native to the African tropics. Since this plant thrives in warmer areas, it is not naturally found in the United States. It is, however, used as a popular houseplant and is part of the Agavaceae family.
This beautiful plant, known for its flowing, wispy leaves is adorned with a pleasant smelling flower, a thick stalk, and leaves that are vivid green accented with a yellowish stripe. Although it is commonly used in homes and public places for decor, this plant is toxic to dogs. The types of toxins, saponins, are not highly poisonous; however, they will cause a variety of symptoms such as gastrointestinal distress. The saponins the plant contains are not fully known, but studies have shown that the saponins are a toxic type of glycoside.
Ribbon plant poisoning in dogs occurs when dogs eat all or part of the ribbon plant. Ribbon plant contains saponins, a type of glycoside, that cause a myriad of side-effects and may require veterinary treatment.
Symptoms of ribbon plant poisoning in dogs are often mild, but can be moderate. Although the ribbon plant is not lethal to dogs, it is still important to receive veterinary assistance if consumed. Symptoms of poisoning include:
The ribbon plant may be called a variety of other names. Knowing the alternate names is important, especially if you have a dog in the home. Types of ribbon plant names are:
Ribbon plant toxicity begins with the ingestion of the plant itself. The specific causes of ribbon plant toxicity are due to the harmful effects of the saponins. Saponins cause the poisoning by:
If you suspect your dog has eaten the ribbon plant, it is important to contact your veterinarian. Although ribbon plant poisoning is usually mild to moderate, your dog will still need to be seen by the veterinarian to be sure of his health condition. It is also important to take part of the plant to the veterinarian clinic with you so that the veterinary team can make a quick diagnosis. If your dog has already vomited on his own, it may be recommended by your veterinarian to bring a sample of the vomitus with you so it may be tested.
Your veterinarian will perform basic testing of the blood, urine, possible stomach contents, and may include a biochemistry profile if he is concerned about the quantity of the plant ingested. The veterinarian is very knowledgeable of clinical signs of poisoning by saponins, and with the signs your dog is showing in addition to the plant material in the vomit or from the actual plant itself, he will be able to begin treatment.
If your dog is reacting severely to the ingestion of the plant, the veterinarian may perform more tests to check for any imbalances of the metabolism, electrolytes, or serum within the blood. He may also perform an x-ray to take a closer look at the stomach contents, namely to look for a cluster of plant content that has not been digested.
Treatment of ribbon poisoning may vary, depending on the amount of the plant that was taken in by your dog. Treatment may include:
Your veterinarian may choose to induce vomiting to help your dog rid himself of the toxic, natural chemicals of the plant. The medical professional may also follow up with the administration of activated charcoal to prevent any further absorption by the gastrointestinal tract.
IV fluids are an ideal way to replace any lost electrolytes and to rehydrate your dog, especially if he has been vomiting or has had diarrhea. IV fluids also help promote normal kidney function by encouraging your dog to urinate.
Once your dog has shown signs of recovery from ribbon plant poisoning, you will be able to take him home. The veterinarian will give you specific instructions on how to properly care for your dog after his treatment. If he suffered from gastrointestinal upset, the veterinarian may prescribe a special diet for your dog or will suggest a bland diet for your loved one. This may be only temporary and will allow his stomach to heal from any irritation he may have had.
The veterinarian will want to see your dog for follow-up visits to be sure he is healing properly. In order to prevent this from happening, it is important to assess your home and property for any toxic plants and remove them or monitor your dog when he is outside amongst any toxic foliage.
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