What is Starch Root Poisoning?
Starch root is a part of the Araceae family and contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that can cause your dog significant discomfort should he chew or consume them. Starch root plants have a spike above the male and female flowers, all of which are protected by a hooded-leaf. Should your dog bite into starch root, the calcium oxalate crystals will entrench themselves into the soft tissue of his mouth, tongue, lips and throat right away. This will typically stop your dog from eating much starch root and possibly causing himself significant damage. Should your dog keep eating the starch root despite the pain and discomfort, the crystals may embed in his throat and airway, leading to inflammation that can cause him to struggle to breathe. In very rare cases, the inflammation, if severe enough, can lead to suffocation and death without immediate treatment.
Starch root contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals and consumption of the plant leads to the crystals entrenching themselves in the tissue of your dog’s mouth, causing significant pain and discomfort.
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Symptoms of Starch Root Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms that your dog experiences from starch root poisoning will vary depending on the amount of the plant that he ate. Common symptoms include:
- Excessive drooling
- Swelling of the mouth, throat, lips, and tongue
- Burning lips and tongue
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
If your dog has eaten a significant amount of starch root, symptoms can be severe. This is rare, as typically the pain and discomfort caused is immediate, leading your dog to stop eating the plant. With ingestion of a large amount of starch root your dog can experience convulsions, renal failure and coma.
Starch root (Arum Maculatum) is part of the Araceae family and is known by many other names. These include:
- Lord and Ladies
- Adam and Eve
- Adder’s root
- Arum lily
- Cows and Bulls
- Cuckoo plant
- Devils and Angels
- Friar’s cowl
- Jack in the pulpit
- Naked boys
- Naked girls
Causes of Starch Root Poisoning in Dogs
Starch root plants have cells that are called idioblasts; these are different from other cells as they have non-living substances contained in them (oil, latex, gum, resin, tannin). One substance they have are bundles of insoluble calcium oxalate crystals (called raphides). If your dog chews on any part of the plant, the idioblast breaks and the saliva of your dog enters the cell, leading to the raphides shooting out from the cells and into your dog’s mouth, tongue, throat, and stomach. In most cases, this will cause immediate discomfort and pain.
Your dog may be interested in the starch root plant due to its odor, which may smell similar to that of feces. Once bitten, the calcium oxalate crystals will become entrenched in your dog’s mouth and possibly his throat, causing pain and inflammation.
Diagnosis of Starch Root Poisoning in Dogs
Should you see your dog eat part of a starch root plant or suspect he may have, the best thing to do is take him to the veterinarian or clinic. Should you have witnessed him around a particular plant, take a picture that you can show to the veterinarian during your dog’s exam. If you have noticed symptoms in your dog since you suspect he got ahold of starch root, you will want to be prepared to let the veterinarian know what you have witnessed and how long the symptoms have been present.
The veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your dog, first focusing on his mouth and throat, to determine if there is any plant material or sap that can be rinsed out of his mouth. In some cases, should there be material present, the veterinarian will sedate your dog to help him relax while his mouth is rinsed. Your dog’s face and skin will be examined for more sap or plant material so that it can be removed if present.
As part of the examination, the veterinarian will check your dog’s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. Depending on the results of the physical examination, the veterinarian may want to conduct an endoscopy to check the airway and esophagus to see if there is any swelling or plant material present. The following may also be conducted:
- Blood count
- Arterial blood gas (ABG)
- Chemistry panel
- Blood glucose level
- Ultrasound (to look for inflammation in your dog’s stomach or intestines)
Treatment of Starch Root Poisoning in Dogs
The treatment recommended by the veterinarian will depend upon the results of your dog’s examination and the tests that were administered. Should the veterinarian have not found any swelling or damage to your dog’s throat or stomach, the only treatment may be rinsing plant residue from his mouth. Should the veterinarian have found swelling or plant particles in your dog’s system, further treatment may be required. This may include intravenous fluids to flush any remaining plant particles out of your dog’s system as well as ensure he remains hydrated. Nutrients may be added to the fluid to help keep his energy up and help with healing as your dog may not feel like eating.
Anesthetic may be used to help with any pain or inflammation that your dog is experiencing. Yogurt, milk, cheese or any other calcium source can also relieve the pain of your dog. Your veterinarian may recommend an antihistamine, to help with the swelling that your dog is experiencing, as reducing the swelling can help to avoid his airway being blocked. Kapectolin may be given for your dog’s stomach upset. Depending on what was seen during the examination, the veterinarian may want to keep your dog at the clinic for a few hours or overnight for observation to make sure he is progressing in his recovery.
Recovery of Starch Root Poisoning in Dogs
Recovery from starch root poisoning is usually pretty quick, though you may notice that your dog has lost his appetite for a day or so. It is important to give your dog plenty of fresh water and follow any diet recommendations that your veterinarian provides.