What is Scented Geranium Poisoning?
The scented geranium genus is fairly large, with over 270 species, hundreds of subspecies, and many more varieties of subspecies. Most of these are native to Africa, but some are from the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand. scented geraniums are perennial bushes or shrubs with a hairy stem, petiolate evergreen leaves, and large showy flowers. These flowers come in many different shades with four or five petals and the leaves are scented in over 30 varieties. There are two toxic properties, linalool and geraniol, which are both used to make essential oils that are even more toxic because they are so concentrated. Just a small amount of one of these essential oils can cause life threatening cardiac changes.
The scented geranium contains at least two toxic substances, which are geraniol and linalool. Geraniol is a monoterpenoid that is classified as a D2B hazardous material due to the eye and skin irritation, and is listed as a toxic chemical if swallowed or inhaled. Linalool is a terpene listed as a level 2 toxic property that may cause dermatitis, intestinal upset, and heartbeat changes.
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Symptoms of Scented Geranium Poisoning in Dogs
The signs of scented geranium poisoning vary depending on the amount eaten, but the most common are:
- Severe dermatitis
- Red eyes
- Appetite loss
- Low body temperature
- Breathing difficulty
- Slow or irregular heart rate
Pelargonium is the scientific name for the scented geranium from the Geranilea order of the Geraniaceae family. These flowers come in 35 scents such as cinnamon, rose, lemon, and spicy. There are almost 300 known species of Pelargonium in different varieties such as:
- Colored foliage
Causes of Scented Geranium Poisoning in Dogs
There are at least two known toxins in the scented geranium which are:
Diagnosis of Scented Geranium Poisoning in Dogs
As with most plant poisoning cases, you should try to bring in a part of the plant or a photograph so the veterinarian can get a positive identification. Also, bring your dog’s medical records if you have them and tell the veterinarian if your pet is on any kind of medications. Whether prescription or over the counter medicine, it is important that you tell the veterinarian because it may be masking some of the symptoms and affect the diagnosis. It can also be a factor in the treatment plan because of dangerous interaction risks.
A thorough physical examination will be done by the veterinarian that usually includes body temperature, reflexes, pupil reaction time, weight, respiratory and heart rate, blood pressure, breath sounds, and oxygen level. An echocardiograph (ECHO) and electrocardiograph (EKG) will probably be done to check your pet’s electrical and muscular cardiac functions. In addition, the veterinarian may want to perform an endoscopy, which is done by inserting a long flexible tube into the esophagus to check for foreign materials like plant particles. Your dog will be anesthetized during this procedure for safety reasons. The veterinarian is able to remove any debris and apply medication such as antibiotic cream with a tool that is inserted into the endoscope.
Additionally, some laboratory tests will need to be done, which may include fecal and urine examination, complete blood count (CBC), blood gases, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) level, serum biochemistry analysis, packed cell volume (PCV), and electrolyte levels. Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) are usually done to get a look at your pet’s intestinal tract and heart. The veterinarian may also want to perform an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan for further evaluation.
Treatment of Scented Geranium Poisoning in Dogs
The treatment plan will largely depend on what symptoms your pet is showing and how much of the scented geranium was ingested. In general, plant poisoning treatment usually includes eliminating the toxins from the system, decontamination with fluids, medications, and possibly hospitalization for observing your pet.
To eliminate the undigested plant particles and poisons, an emetic, such as hydrogen peroxide solution will be given to induce vomiting. If your pet has not vomited within 30 minutes, the veterinarian may give another dose of emetic. After your dog vomits, activated charcoal will be given to absorb the digested material so it can be passed through bowel movements.
Decontaminating your dog includes administering electrolytes and fluids through an intravenous (IV) line. If necessary, the veterinarian may also perform a gastric lavage by running fluid into your dog’s intestinal tract. This will wash away any remaining plant particles and toxins.
Atropine will be administered through the IV for cardiac symptoms, H2 blockers or antacid to ease intestinal upset, a steroid injection for pain and inflammation, and possibly an antibiotic for infection.
Depending on your dog’s symptoms and response to treatment, the veterinarian may suggest a 12-24 hour stay in the hospital for observation.
Recovery of Scented Geranium Poisoning in Dogs
The prognosis for scented geranium is excellent. Even if your dog consumes a large amount of the plant, as long as you were able to get treatment within 12 hours, chances are good that your pet will be back to normal within a few days.