What is Starleaf Poisoning?
Starleaf, also known as schefflera, umbrella tree, octopus tree, and Australian ivy palm contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that can cause significant swelling and pain in both the mouth and gastrointestinal tract if chewed on or swallowed by your dog. Common in mild to warm climates, starleaf produces dull red flowers when in bloom.
All parts of starleaf contain calcium oxalate crystals that embed themselves in the soft tissues of your dog, which often will stop him from ingesting any more than a small amount. In rare cases, your dog may swallow more than average amounts regardless of the pain and discomfort that he is experiencing.
Starleaf and its sap contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that lead to swelling and pain in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract of your dog when ingested.
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Symptoms of Starleaf Poisoning in Dogs
Ingestion of starleaf and its insoluble calcium oxalate crystals should not be life threatening. The most common symptoms will be a loss of appetite and upset stomach (vomiting and diarrhea). Other symptoms include:
- Excessive drooling
- Dilated eyes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pawing or rubbing at his face or mouth
- Swelling of your dog’s tongue and lips
- Obstruction of your dog’s airway
Starleaf goes by a number of names to include schefflera, octopus tree and umbrella tree. There are other plants that contain the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that cause a similar reaction when ingested by your dog. These plants include:
- Calla or arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)
- Candelabra cactus (Euphorbia lactea)
- Charming Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia amoena)
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestrum)
- Elephant’s ear (Alocasia/Caladium/Xanthosoma)
- Flamingo plant (Anthurium)
- Fruit salad plant (Monstera)
- Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)
- Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
- Wild calla (Calla)
Causes of Starleaf Poisoning in Dogs
The starleaf plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that will cause injury to your dog upon ingestion. Chewing a part of the plant will immediately cause pain in his mouth as miniscule crystals embed in any soft tissues they contact, causing irritation, numbness and swelling. If the sap or a part of the plant is eaten, irritation will also occur in the throat and gastrointestinal tract of your dog, causing severe pain and swelling. Should your dog’s throat swell, he may encounter breathing difficulties as his airway may become blocked.
Diagnosis of Starleaf Poisoning in Dogs
If you are not exactly sure what your dog has ingested or if you believe he may have consumed a large amount of starleaf, it is a good idea to visit your veterinarian. Signs of ingestion of calcium oxalate crystals will be evident pretty quickly in your dog. Should your dog have swallowed part of the plant without completely chewing it, he may not display symptoms for up to two hours. Even without symptoms presenting themselves, it is a good idea to go to the veterinarian in the event that swelling of your dog’s throat or tongue cause his airway to be obstructed.
While your veterinarian examines your dog he will ask you what symptoms you have noticed as well as how long they have been present. He will also ask for information on what he has eaten as well as if he may have had the opportunity to eat something that you are not aware of. Should there be any supplements or prescriptions that the veterinarian you are seeing has not prescribed, you will want to be sure he knows about them in order to consider if they are the cause of any toxins in your dog’s system. The following tests will likely be conducted:
- Complete blood count
- Biochemistry profile (to show any disorders or diseases that may be affecting your dog)
- If your dog vomited after ingesting the plant material his vomit may be examined and tested for toxins
Treatment of Starleaf Poisoning in Dogs
If you notice that your dog has eaten some starleaf, you can start to help him by using fresh clean water to cleanse his mouth and affected areas to remove as many of the crystals as possible. You can also provide him with something cool to eat or drink (ice cubes or small amounts of milk) in order to reduce the pain and swelling that he is experiencing. The next step is to contact the veterinarian. Fortunately, the sap from starleaf has an unpleasant taste and due to that and the discomfort it causes, dogs will typically stop themselves from ingesting much of the plant. This being the case, sometimes washing out your dog’s mouth is all that is needed to relieve his pain.
Your veterinarian may recommend administering a pain reliever or antihistamine to reduce the inflammation. Should your dog have ingested a significant amount of the plant or sap, you will likely need to visit the veterinarian to ensure that your dog’s airways are clear and that he receives the pain relief that he needs. If your dog has not vomited, your veterinarian may induce him to do so in order to get the poison out of his system. Medical charcoal may also be used to absorb the toxins and he may be given intravenous fluids in order to prevent dehydration. Another recommendation may be a medication like Kapectolin that will protect your dog’s stomach lining from further damage. In a case where the airway is obstructed, oxygen may be given until the swelling is reduced.
Recovery of Starleaf Poisoning in Dogs
The prognosis is good for dogs that ingest starleaf and are affected by the calcium oxalate crystals. The inflammation resulting from the crystals in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract typically recedes within 12 to 24 hours of when they were consumed. Should there be swelling after that time in the airway of your dog, you will want to be sure he is evaluated by a veterinarian. Because the crystals cause such pain and discomfort and have an unpleasant taste, rarely are large doses consumed. In the cases where large amounts are ingested, it can impact the liver and kidneys of your dog, requiring ongoing monitoring by your veterinarian.