What is Spring Crocus Poisoning?
The spring crocus is a genus of perennial flowering plants native to Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Crocuses are a hardy plant that grows from an underground stem base called a corm. They are best known as one of the earliest spring flowers coming up year after year just after the snows disappear, hence the name spring crocus. Crocuses grow only a few inches high. Their many slender leaves resemble grass blades with a single stripe running down the middle. The cup-shaped flower has three stamens. Some varieties of spring crocus, particularly Crocus sativus, have been grown for the spicy saffron that is found on the plant’s stigmas.
The crocus plant belongs to the Iridaceae family whose other members include well-known garden flowers like iris, freesia, and gladiolus. Spring crocuses come in many different colors and varieties, and paradoxically some can even bloom in autumn or early winter. They should be distinguished from the autumn crocus (Colchicum automnale) however, which is also called meadow saffron and naked lady. Although this plant appears similar, it is not a true crocus. It belongs to the Colchicaceae family (in the same order as lilies) and contains a deadly toxin, colchicine that can be fatal for dogs and humans even in small doses. Spring crocuses on the other hand, are not poisonous, although ingestion can cause adverse effects like vomiting, diarrhea, and general gastrointestinal upset. Spring crocuses should be treated with caution because of their resemblance to the deadly autumn crocus. If you’re not sure which plant your dog has ingested, it’s best to seek veterinary treatment immediately.
Spring Crocus is non-toxic, but ingestion may cause mild symptoms of gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Care must be taken to distinguish spring crocus from the autumn crocus which is very poisonous. Different varieties can bloom at different times of the year, so season is not a safe identification method.
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Symptoms of Spring Crocus Poisoning in Dogs
These are the symptoms associated with spring crocus ingestion.
If there is blood in the vomit or diarrhea, or if there more severe symptoms like seizures and respiratory difficulty, this could indicate your dog has eaten autumn crocus instead.
Despite its name, there are many varieties of spring crocus which may bloom at different times of the year.
Spring blooming varieties
- Dutch crocus (C. Vernus)
- Scottish crocus (C. biflorus)
- Early crocus (C. tommasinianus)
- Golden crocus (C. Chrysanthus)
Fall blooming varieties
- Saffron crocus (C. sativus)
- Cloth of gold (C. angustifolius)
- Biebersteins’s crocus (C. speciosus)
Causes of Spring Crocus Poisoning in Dogs
- Spring crocus growing in your garden or neighborhood can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort if your pet ingests the plant
- Dogs that like to eat flowers and greenery cannot distinguish between plants that will cause no upset and plants that can mild to serious toxicity
- It is best to not allow your pet to chew on any plants that you are not highly familiar with
Diagnosis of Spring Crocus Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has eaten a crocus plant and you are unsure of the variety, it’s best to get advice from a professional whatever the season. Colchicum plants don’t usually bloom in the spring, but a different variety or climate could make flowers appear at an unusual time. Iridaceae species won’t cause a significant problem, however if the plant turns out to be autumn crocus, immediate treatment will be needed to save your dog’s life. Call an emergency veterinary clinic or a poison hotline and be prepared to describe the plant exactly, including leaves, petals and number of stamen. If you see a veterinarian in person, bring a sample of the plant, so your veterinarian can identify it.
Treatment of Spring Crocus Poisoning in Dogs
It’s a good idea to call your veterinarian any time a dog eats a non-food plant, especially if more than a few leaves are ingested. However, most instances of spring crocus ingestion won’t need treatment. Your dog may vomit and have loose bowel movements for several days, but symptoms will usually pass on their own. If vomiting is very severe, the veterinarian may prescribe anti-emetic medication. Make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Recovery of Spring Crocus Poisoning in Dogs
The best way to prevent your dog from eating spring crocus and other garden flowers is to ensure he has a healthy diet with plenty of roughage. Additionally, try planting areas of dog-safe grasses around your house to give your dog something safe to chew on. Dogs naturally eat a small amount of grass or other plant material. If this need is met, they will be less likely to destroy garden plants.
Make sure you know what varieties of crocus are in your garden or those of your immediate neighbors, so you can protect your dog from the more dangerous autumn crocus. This plant can be identified easily in the spring since the first leaves are quite different from the spring crocus and appear more like lettuce leaves than grass. The leaves will die back in the fall when the flowers typically appear. Autumn crocus flowers look very similar to spring crocus flowers but they are usually larger and have six stamen rather than three. All parts of the autumn crocus, leaves and flowers, will be very toxic for your dog, so it’s important to recognize it and distinguish it from spring crocus species.