What is Spindle Tree Poisoning?
The spindle tree plant, scientific name of Euonymus atropurpurea, also is called burning bush and wahoo. This is a small to medium-sized shrub that can grow up to 6 feet high. Although native to Asia, it is found in the United States within the North-central and eastern regions. It is also found in the Himalayan Mountains, and distributed in Australia, Madagascar, and Europe. The small purple flowers, along with the small reddish fruits produce amazingly beautiful fall foliage and colorful displays of flowers. It does emit a gaseous vapor which is flammable, hence the nickname of burning bush.
This plant is made up of 130 species of shrubs and dwarf trees, all of which are evergreen and deciduous. The spindle tree is also used in herbal tinctures and medications in small doses. Many herbal enthusiasts use this plant as a tonic, a hepatic stimulant, as an aid to dispel bile from the liver, and a laxative. In larger doses, it can cause gastrointestinal distress in humans as well as in small animals.
Spindle tree poisoning in dogs occurs when dogs ingest all or part of the spindle tree plant. This plan contains cardenolides which are toxic to dogs and other small animals.
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Symptoms of Spindle Tree Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms your dog has after the consumption of the plant will depend on how much he consumed. The spindle tree plant contains alkaloids and cardenolides which can lead to the following symptoms of poisoning:
- Abdominal pain
- Heart rate abnormalities
- General malaise
Cardenolides, which are a type of specific steroids, are present in many flowering plants. It is important to understand the plants that contain these toxic steroids. Other plants that contain cardenolides include:
- Bitter root
- Burning bush
- Lily of the valley
- Yellow oleander
Causes of Spindle Tree Poisoning in Dogs
The causes of toxicity from the spindle tree plant stem from the cardenolides which are present. Specific causes of poisoning are:
- Cardenolides cause cardiac disturbances in the areas of conduction
- Spindle tree contains toxic alkaloids
- Alkaloids are plant chemicals that have negative physiological effects
Diagnosis of Spindle Tree Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has any of the above symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you know or suspect that your dog has ingested spindle tree, take a part of the plant in with you to the veterinarian. Over the phone, the veterinarian may recommend that you go ahead and induce vomiting. He will give you suggestions on the type of solution to use to induce the vomiting, and if you are able, taking a sample of the expelled stomach contents with you to the appointment can help the veterinarian confirm a diagnosis of spindle tree toxicity.
Once you arrive at the veterinarian’s office, he will begin by assessing your dog’s symptoms. He will also ask you questions pertaining to his health history, the amount of spindle tree consumed, the timing and severity of his symptoms, and any other questions in which he feels are necessary to help with diagnosis. The medical professional will also perform a variety of tests, such as blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile, and will check your dog’s vital signs. He will check the dog’s blood pressure, respiratory rate, temperature, pulse rate, and any other vitals that will help him with his diagnosis. Your veterinary doctor may also perform a fecal examination, a blood gas panel, a blood urea nitrogen panel, and will test your pet’s electrolyte levels. He may also test his blood glucose levels, which will check for any effects from cardiac glycosides in terms of lowering the blood sugar amounts within your dog. He may also perform an electrocardiogram to monitor his heart function.
Treatment of Spindle Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment of spindle tree toxicity may vary depending on the level of poisoning your dog is suffering from. Treatment methods may include:
The veterinarian may perform emesis on your dog by giving him a solution of hydrogen peroxide. This will allow your dog to expel any of the contents from his stomach that contain the toxins. After emesis, the veterinarian will administer a dose of activated charcoal to further absorb the toxins and prevent the toxins from entering the bloodstream. More than one dosage of activated charcoal may be given if necessary.
IV fluids are important to restore the electrolytes within the blood. These fluids are also important in preventing dehydration; IV fluids also encourage the kidneys to work properly by promoting urination. This is another way to flush the poison from the spindle tree out of your dog.
If your dog is suffering convulsions, paraldehyde may be given. This solely depends on the veterinarian’s discretion, and depends on the severity of your companion’s condition. Paraldehyde is useful in controlling any tremors and convulsions your dog may be experiencing.
Your companion may be kept overnight to monitor his progress. If he is responding to treatment, the veterinarian will continue to take his vital signs and blood work, and monitor his heart rate and oxygen intake. He will also be kept on fluids in the hospital until he recovers.
Recovery of Spindle Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Recovery from spindle tree poisoning may take a few days to a week. This is dependent upon your dog’s condition, his overall health, his age, and how much of the plant he ingested. Once he is able to go home, your veterinarian will give you specific advice on how to care for him. It will be important to encourage rest and keep a watchful eye on him. If you see any new signs or symptoms develop, or any behavioral changes that alarm you, please contact your veterinarian.
He may prescribe a prescription dog food that is bland in substance, or he may give you a list of suggested foods that you can give him from home. Boiled chicken and rice may be what the doctor orders until he is completely recovered. This is due to the fact that he may have had gastrointestinal upset.
It is important to remove any toxic plants from your home or property. In order to prevent any further incidences of plant eating by your dog, check to see if all of your plants are safe for pets in case of accidental ingestion. You can be sure by researching online, asking your local florist, or contacting your veterinarian for a list of toxic plants.