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Native to the Mediterranean in the surrounding area, the sowbread is a popular plant that adorns many homes and gardens. This plant, of the Cyclamen species, has heart-shaped leaves of beautiful hues of silver and green. The flower colors may be variegated and can range from white to pink to reddish, and typically have five petals. The plant grows from tubers that are close to the soil.
The sowbread plant is also called the Persian violet and cyclamen plant, and is sold at many florists and landscapers. Although very pretty and eye-catching, this plant is quite poisonous as it contains irritating saponins. This compound is prevalent in the tubers and roots of the plant. This is the natural defense mechanism to protect the plant from damage. Oftentimes, dogs are exposed to and attempt to chew on the sowbread plant in the winter months, as many homeowners have this plant indoors. Since the dog spends more time indoors in these cooler months, temptations arise to graze on unattended plants.
Sowbread poisoning in dogs occurs when dogs ingest all or part of the sowbread plant which is toxic to dogs and other small animals, as it contains terpenoid saponins.
Symptoms from ingesting the sowbread plant may be quite irritating and severe. Symptoms of sowbread toxicity include:
Plants that contain terpenoid saponins are quite dangerous when consumed by pets. There are many types of plants that contain these toxic chemicals. Poisonous plants which include saponins are:
The sowbread plant is toxic throughout all of the plant and can cause cardiac and gastrointestinal distress. Specific causes of poisoning from this plant include:
If you suspect your dog has been exposed to terpenoid saponins by the Sowbread plant, call your veterinarian immediately. Your medical professional may tell you to immediately wash his face with a cool rinse, and possibly induce vomiting. He will give you suggestions for an emetic to use. If you unable to perform these actions, the veterinarian or assistant will more than likely do it when you arrive.
The veterinarian will immediately begin assessing your dog by taking his vital signs and doing a complete physical examination. The medical professional will take a full battery of blood work, a urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile. These tests will help bring the veterinarian closer to a diagnosis. The medical professional will also ask and observe the symptoms in which the dog is having. Since the terpenoid saponins may cause heart arrhythmia, your veterinarian may perform an EKG to check the heart function. He may also perform an imaging technique on the gastrointestinal tract as saponins can cause moderate to severe inflammation in this area.
The veterinarian is a trained professional who is trained to look at signs and symptoms of dogs, especially after they have consumed toxic plants. The veterinarian may come to a preliminary diagnosis while waiting on test results and proceed with treatment. More than likely, he will proceed with connecting your dog to an IV so he can start receiving much-needed fluids.
Once your dog is diagnosed with sowbread poisoning, treatment may be symptomatic in many cases, but there are a few consistent methods of treatment that are very common.
If your dog has not already done so, your veterinarian will perform emesis in order to expel the contents from your pet’s stomach. This action will be followed up with the administration of activated charcoal in order to soak up any of the remaining toxins and prevent them from being absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. In severe cases, gastric lavage may be performed, which is the insertion of a tube into the mouth and down through the esophagus into the stomach. The stomach is then flushed out with the contents coming through the tube.
Due to the fact that the toxic saponins can affect the heart, the veterinarian will have the dog hooked up to a heart monitor and will watch his heart rate and other vital signs. Depending on the level of poisoning, the dog may be hooked up to a heart monitor until he shows signs of recovery.
Fluids are an ideal way to rehydrate the dog if he has been vomiting or has been suffering from diarrhea. Fluids also encourage proper kidney function through urinalysis and also restore any lost nutrients and electrolytes within the blood stream.
Your dog is going to require hospitalization if his toxicity is moderate to severe. Your veterinarian will want to keep him overnight as he recovers and will keep a close eye on your dog. He will watch for any new symptoms and treat them as they arise.
Once your dog has recovered, your veterinarian will give you a detailed list of instructions on how to care for him at home. He may prescribe a bland diet and prescription form or give you a list of foods you may feed him that are gentle on the stomach. Your medical professional will communicate with you how long he needs to be on a special diet.
It is important to monitor your dog closely, avoid active play, and encourage rest. You may have follow-up visits with your medical professional to be sure your dog is recovering in a timely manner and making progress. Prognosis is generally very good once treatment has been successful. If you see any new symptoms develop or if your dog begins to behave differently, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
In order to prevent toxicity from occurring in the future, take a look at the plants around your home and check them for their safety around animals. If you are unsure of the levels of toxicity of your plants, you may contact your local ASPCA, Humane Society, or ask your veterinarian.
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