What is Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning?
Swiss cheese plant comes from the Araceae family of plants and contains calcium oxalate crystals or raphides as well as possibly proteolytic enzymes, but it all depends on the plant’s species. It is called dumb cane because of the potential for your pet to lose its voice after ingesting the plant. Calcium oxalate crystals will infiltrate and implant itself within the tissues of the tongue, mouth, stomach and throat. Your pet will feel instant discomfort and irritation, as if a million needles were injecting the area. Even after the initial ingestion, the idioblasts might still eject raphides, which will subsequently force the crystals to be embedded in the stomach lining and possibly the intestine. This will result in additional upset to the digestive system.
Because the plant has a bitter taste and is immediately irritating to the mouth, your pet may not ingest a large amount. If, this occurs, however, your pet could experience excessive diarrhea and vomiting with severe dehydration caused by electrolyte imbalance. This could send your pet into shock, coma, cardiac arrest, convulsion, liver and kidney damage, or even death. Don’t let this alarm you, but it is a sign that you have to take immediate action by going to the veterinarian for closer evaluation and treatment.
Swiss cheese plants contain unique cells known as idioblasts. When your dog chews on the stems, flower or leaves, the tip breaks off, and this subsequently releases calcium oxalate crystals that can result in poisoning.
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Symptoms of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Dogs
Your pet may bark, whine, or yelp as a sign that something is wrong. However, other symptoms include:
- Extreme burning sensation of the lips, throat and tongue
- Excessive drooling
- Swollen throat and tongue
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Gasping for air in order to breath
- Noticeable pawing of mouth or face
- Oral cavity
Several of these symptoms may go on for two weeks. Recovery is still possible, even if your pet has ingested larger amounts of the plant. However, medical help will make a major difference between life and death.
Causes of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Dogs
Some of this plant species contain enzymes that encourage the discharge of histamines and kinins. This will result in:
- Fluctuating blood pressure
- Stimulation of pain receptors
These inflammatory reactions will only result in more internal irritation and damage already done by the entrenched calcium oxalate crystals.
Diagnosis of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will provide a diagnosis, but if you bring along a plant sample or a picture of the plant, this would be more helpful. The veterinarian would be able to identify and assess the toxic agent that is causing the symptoms. If no symptoms are present, don’t assume that your pet is fine. You should still see a veterinarian as a precaution against permanent complications. Provide as many details to the veterinary professional such as what the dog has eaten, when and how much of the plant was eaten. A full physical exam will be done by the veterinarian. This could include things like:
- Assessing the skin condition
- Checking the pulse, height, weight, breathing, reflexes, blood pressure, oxygen level and respiratory rate
Additionally, the veterinarian will do an endoscopy for a closer examination of the throat. In so doing, plant materials will be removed, if present. A long tube is used to conduct the endoscopy. Your dog will be sedated while performing this procedure. A stomach x-ray may also be conducted to ensure that there is no obstructions and also to identify any irregular swelling. Several laboratory tests may be administered, which include:
- Blood count
- Blood urea nitrogen
- Liver enzyme panel
Treatment of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Dogs
Initially, vomiting may be induced to get all of the toxic material out. An emetic will usually be given to induce vomiting. Electrolytes may be given to hydrate the dog’s system after vomiting. In some of these extreme cases, the veterinarian may determine that your pet be hospitalized.
Your veterinarian will want to know if your pet is currently taking any medication, whether prescribed or over-the-counter drugs. You should also inform the veterinarian whether your pet is allergic to any prescribed medicine.
Recovery of Swiss Cheese Plant Poisoning in Dogs
After being observed for several hours and there is a consensus that things have improved, the veterinarian will send you and your pet home. A special diet will be recommended until the digestive system has recovered. Follow all instructions given to you by the veterinarian and this could include administering medication and keeping your follow up appointments. If there are any developing issues during recovery, do not hesitate in calling your veterinarian for help with your questions and concerns.