What is String of Pearls Poisoning?
The string of pearls plant is originally from South Africa and its stems of round leaves can grow up to three feet long. In addition, the string of pearls grows white flowers that look alien with strange violet stamens that look like antennae sticking out of them, topped with purple and yellow pollen-tipped arms. Even though these plants are beautiful to look at, they are toxic to your dog, so it is best not to have them anywhere your dog may be able to reach. Symptoms ranging from diarrhea to liver failure can result from ingestion. Itching, painful skin will cause distress to your pet as well.
The strange, succulent leaves that look like green pearls hanging from the plant in long strings give this plant its unique name. Although it is beautiful, the string of pearls plant is toxic to dogs as well as humans. In humans, eating part of the plant can cause moderate gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. However, if your dog consumes any of the string of pearls, the toxic compounds in the plant can be devastating. In addition, contact dermatitis, including severe irritation, rash, itching, pain, inflammation, and pain is caused by skin exposure.
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Symptoms of String of Pearls Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of string of pearls poisoning depend on how your dog was exposed. The plant is toxic to the skin from an unknown alkaloid as well as to the digestive system in dogs and people. Because the toxicity is cumulative, the toxic chemical can build up within a short time, so these signs are dangerous once noticed. The symptoms may not be evident right away, and your dog could continue to eat the flowers or leaves until a high enough dose has been reached to produce symptoms. Signs of string of pearls poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- Contact dermatitis
- Pain of exposed skin
- Redness of the skin
- Rubbing the face
- Liver failure (Dark urine, fatigue, general unwell feeling, jaundice - yellow tint to skin and eyes, swollen abdomen due to fluid retention, loss of appetite)
- Muscle convulsions
- Poor hair coat condition
- Strange behavioral changes
- Weight loss
The string of pearls plant is actually called Senecio rowleyanus in the asterales order from the genus Senecio of the asteraceae family. Some other common names for the string of pearls plant are:
- Bead plant
- Curio rowleyanus
- Green peas
- Irish beads
- Kleinia rowleyana
- Necklace plant
- Rosary pearls
- Rosary vine
- String o' pearls
- String of pearls
- String of marbles
- String of peas
Causes of String of Pearls Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of string of pearls plant poisoning is thought to be from alkaloids, although the exact type is not known. There are two forms of poisoning, the contact dermatitis to the skin and the digestive effects of oral poisoning. Both forms of exposure should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Diagnosis of String of Pearls Poisoning in Dogs
Bring a portion of the string of pearls plant with you to the veterinarian to help aid in diagnosis. When you arrive, the veterinarian will perform a physical examination, including overall condition, heart rate, breath sounds, respiratory rate, blood pressure, body temperature, weight, reflexes, and oxygen levels. Be sure to give the team all the details about the incident, such as how much and what part of the plant your dog ate. You should also tell the veterinarian about your dog’s health history, vaccination records, unusual behavior, or appetite changes. Laboratory tests will be done next, including biochemical profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), electrolyte and glucose levels. To check if your dog is dehydrated, a packed cell volume (PCV) test will probably be done. An endoscopy could also be performed to view the esophagus and remove any plant material. This procedure is done using an endoscope, which is a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end. Your dog will most likely be anesthetized during the procedure. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is sometimes performed to measure the electrical and muscular performance of the heart. Imaging done with x-ray, CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound may also be necessary.
Treatment of String of Pearls Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment will depend on how much string of pearls your dog ate and what symptoms have been noticed. Early decontamination can help reduce the symptoms, so the veterinarian will induce vomiting with a hydrogen peroxide medication. Also, activated charcoal is recommended if it has been less than three hours since ingestion. Depending on the electrolyte levels and PCV results, they will probably need to give your dog intravenous fluids. This helps flush the toxins from your dog’s body as well as rehydrates the system. The intravenous therapy is also helpful when gastrointestinal protectants or medications to combat nausea are necessary. Gastric lavage can be done to further empty the stomach of any toxins left in your dog’s system. Other supportive therapy may be administered depending on your dog’s needs. Your pet will also be monitored carefully the entire time.
Recovery of String of Pearls Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is treated within the first 18 hours and there have been no renal system symptoms, the prognosis is good. If you have any questions or concerns, call your veterinarian. To prevent this from happening again, it is best to remove any string of pearls plants you may have inside or outside your home. If you have a dog who likes to chew or eat foliage, plant canine-safe grasses in an area of the yard. Work to train your pet that this area is his, and do not permit him to investigate other sections of your garden.