What is Sabi Star Poisoning?
The sabi star is a beautiful plant that grows in the wild south of the Sahara desert, but has been cultivated to grow in other countries, such as the warmer states in North America like Florida and California. In the cooler areas of the world, the sabi star may be found as a houseplant or potted plant indoors, sometimes as bonsai trees. It is an evergreen succulent that can grow up to nine feet tall in the wild and has exquisite magenta, pink, and white tubular flowers. The cardiac glycoside poisons in the sabi star are so toxic that they are used as arrow poison for hunting in Africa.
Sabi star poisoning is a life threatening condition in dogs caused by the consumption of Adenium obesum (Sabi star), which is a gorgeous flowering tropical plant. Eating any part of this plant, including the roots and the flower itself, can be fatal if not treated immediately. The toxins found in the sabi star include more than 30 different types of cardiac glycosides, including cardenolides, bufadienolides, pentacyclic triterpenes, and digitoxigenins. These poisonous substances can trigger many symptoms including heart palpitations, abnormal heart rate, shortness of breath, and may even cause a heart attack. These cardiac glycosides are all capable of producing serious side effects and may endanger your dog’s life if not treated by a veterinary professional right away.
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Symptoms of Sabi Star Poisoning in Dogs
There are several different subspecies and varieties of the sabi star which can vary in toxicity, but they are all quite poisonous if eaten. The first signs you notice may be gastrointestinal, but they could also include central nervous system, metabolism, and cardiac symptoms. Some of the most often reported symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
Central Nervous System
- Dilated pupils
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Dangerously elevated potassium level
- Abnormal heart rate
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Cardiac arrest (heart attack)
The scientific name for the sabi star is Adenium obesum and it is from the Apocynaceae family. There are several other varieties and subspecies, which include:
- Adenium oleifolium
- Impala lily
- Adenium arabicum
- Kudu lily
- Adenium socotranum
- Desert rose
- Adenium somalense
- Adenium swazicum
- Desert azalea
- Mock azalea
Causes of Sabi Star Poisoning in Dogs
The sabi star contains more than 30 digitalis-like glycosides, 15 that are known glycosides and 15 that are mixtures of aglycones and sugars. Some of the most common are:
- Adenine – Cardioactive compound
- Dihydroifflaionic acid – Pentacyclic triterpene
- Neriifolin - Digitoxigenin
- Somaline - Digitoxigenin
- Strospeside - Cardenolide glycoside
Diagnosis of Sabi Star Poisoning in Dogs
The diagnosis of sabi star poisoning is usually done based on your account of what kind of plant was eaten and your pet’s symptoms. It can help if you bring a part of the plant or a photograph to show the veterinarian. You should also make sure you mention if you have given your dog any kind of medicine, whether it is prescription or over the counter. This is very important because it could be masking some of the symptoms and may interfere with diagnosis and treatment.
The veterinarian will need to perform a thorough examination including your dog’s heart rate, blood pressure, height and weight, pupil reaction, breath sounds, respirations, reflexes, temperature, and oxygen level. Because of the cardiac implication, the veterinarian will hook your dog up to an electrocardiograph (EKG) to measure muscle and electrical function.
Also, some laboratory tests will be done to rule out other illnesses and disorders. Some of the tests needed may include a biochemical profile, urinalysis, creatinine (CREAT), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), complete blood count (CBC), glucose levels, liver enzyme panel, packed cell volume (PCV), and stool sample analysis. With sabi star toxicity, these tests will indicate elevated magnesium, calcium, protein, creatinine, glucose, potassium, and nitrogen. Abdominal and chest x-rays will also be done to assess the condition of your pet’s digestive tract and heart. An ultrasound will also be performed for a better evaluation of the cardiac muscle function. An MRI and CT scan may be necessary if a more detailed view is needed.
Treatment of Sabi Star Poisoning in Dogs
The treatment for sabi star poisoning is generally the same as with digitalis medication overdose or other similar toxicities. This usually includes evacuation, detoxification, medications, and hospitalization for observation.
The evacuation step includes giving your pet emetic drugs, like peroxide or ipecac, to encourage vomiting. Afterward, the veterinarian will administer activated charcoal to absorb any undigested toxins.
Fluid therapy by intravenous (IV) line will be done to replenish electrolytes, prevent dehydration and flush the kidneys.
Oxygen therapy will be given right away, if needed, atropine is used to stabilize the heart rate, and if necessary, the veterinarian may use digoxin-specific Fab fragments as an antidote.
Hospitalization for observation
The veterinarian will probably want to keep your pet overnight for observation and to continue fluid and oxygen therapy.
Recovery of Sabi Star Poisoning in Dogs
When you take your dog home, be sure to provide a safe and quiet place to rest, plenty of fresh water, and a bland food diet for a few days. The rate of your companion’s recovery will be determined by the severity of the sabi star toxicity that he experienced; your veterinarian can advise you on what to expect. She may advise a follow up appointment within a week to verify that your pet is back to normal.