What is Spanish Thyme Poisoning?
Spanish thyme, commonly known as coleus, is a very vibrant, colorful, and fragrant plant. They are considered perennials in specific zones of 10 and 11 in the US, and in cooler climate zones they are known as annual plants. Many people adorn their lawns and other foliage with this unique-looking plant. They exhibit a smell similar to camphor or oregano, which may attract small animals to take a taste. Spanish thyme may contain small flowers in shades of blue or white with leaves of a very colorful green and often mixed with a purplish hue. Leaves of the Spanish thyme plant may also be burgundy to red in color, and the bold colors mix well with the variegated green leaves that also are a part of this thyme plant.
It is a very hardy plant and grows in well-irrigated in fertile soil. It can thrive in partially shaded areas as well as areas of sunlight. Spanish thyme grows very quickly, and many individuals avoid the plant as they consider it to be invasive; other landscapers enjoy the thick growth as it is easy to grow. Spanish thyme is often used as an indoor plant in the winter, and dogs that are indoor dogs tend to be curious and ingest all or part of the leaves, which can cause side effects of poisoning.
Although these plants are not toxic to humans, they are toxic to dogs and other small animals. This plant contains a sap that can be quite irritating to the skin and, when consumed, to the gastrointestinal tract.
Spanish thyme poisoning in dogs is the result of the ingestion of the Spanish thyme plant. Spanish thyme is toxic to dogs and other small animals due to the plant chemical known as diterpene and other toxic oils.
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Symptoms of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Dogs
Depending on how much Spanish thyme has been ingested by your dog, your companion may have mild to moderate toxicity. Symptoms include:
- Irritation of the mouth
- Inflammation of the intestines
- Muscle tremors
- Swollen tongue and mouth area
- Excessive drooling
- Pawing at the mouth and face
- General malaise
Spanish thyme is a member of the Lamiaceae family, and is called a variety of names.
- Bread and butter plant
- Country borage
- Mexican thyme
- Cuban oregano
- French thyme
- Indian mint
- Stinging thyme
- East Indian thyme
Causes of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Dogs
Spanish thyme, or coleus, toxicity can be mild to severe, depending on the amount consumed by your dog. Specific causes of toxicity include:
- Contains diterpene, a chemical located more so on the outside foliage of this plant
- Diterpene lowers the blood pressure
- Skin irritation and dermatitis is caused by the oils of the plant, which contain carvacrol, thymol, eugenol, and methyleugenol
Diagnosis of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Dogs
Although this plant may be consumed by people without any harmful effects, when consumed in high amounts by dogs they can become ill. If your dog is exhibiting the above symptoms, take him to the veterinarian immediately so he may be assessed and treated. If you suspect your dog has eaten Spanish thyme, take the plant in with you to the veterinarian. He may go ahead and perform emesis and test the contents of his stomach for traces of this plant.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination, including blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. Depending on your dog’s symptoms, he may perform additional laboratory testing to rule out any other illnesses. This may include abdominal images to check for any inflammation of the intestines such as ultrasound and a CT scan. Your veterinarian will also ask you questions pertaining to how much Spanish thyme your dog may have eaten, and the time frame in which the plant was eaten to when you arrived at the veterinarian’s office. He will also ask questions about his health history.
The veterinarian will also monitor your dog’s blood pressure and heart rate. He may hook him up to an EKG or a similar heart monitor. The toxic substance in the Spanish thyme is known to cause heart palpitations and arrhythmia which will need to be watched. Once treatment is successful and the dog begins to recover, this heart abnormality will diminish.
Treatment of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has not already vomited on his own or with the help of you performing emesis, your veterinarian will encourage vomiting by giving him a hydrogen peroxide solution. This will enable him to expel the contents from his stomach. This will be followed up with a dose of activated charcoal to absorb any of the remaining toxins and prevent them from entering the bloodstream. In severe cases, gastric lavage may be performed, in which a tube is inserted down the esophagus and into the stomach. The stomach is then flushed out with the contents coming through the tube, and then rinsed with saline.
Because the toxic saponins can negatively affect your dog’s heart rate, the physician will have your dog hooked up to a heart monitor and will keep a close eye on his heart rate as well as other vital signs. Your dog may be hooked up to a heart monitor until he shows signs of recovery.
The sap-like oils from the Spanish thyme can cause irritated skin, especially on the facial area. The veterinarian may thoroughly rinse your dog’s face and mouth area with a cool rinse and possibly a mild detergent to help deter any further irritation of the skin.
Fluids are given 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.
Recovery of Spanish Thyme Poisoning in Dogs
Once your companion has shown signs of becoming well again, your veterinarian will send him home with you. He will give you instructions for his after-care, including diet, the amount of rest he needs, activities he needs to avoid, and things you need to watch for in terms of new symptoms and new behaviors.
If your dog is put on a bland diet due to his upset stomach, your veterinarian will give you suggestions of bland foods to feed him, or prescribe a bland dog food. Continue to feed him this diet until your next veterinary visit. Follow-up visits are important to ensure your dog is recovering properly. Your veterinarian will want to do a complete physical examination with blood work to be sure the toxic substance is completely gone from the body.
If you have any plants in the home, it is important to know the plants and if they are toxic. If you are unsure of which plans in your home are unsafe for dogs, you can do research online, ask your florist, or contact your Humane Society for more information. This will prevent any future episodes of poisoning and keep your dog safe.