What is Tail Flower Poisoning?
The tail flower grows naturally in Ecuador and Columbia, but is grown indoors as a houseplant all over the world. Known for its tropical beauty, the tail flower has glossy green leaves shaped like hearts and one large axillary flower with a soft yellow spadix, and glossy red spathe that resembles the heart-shaped leaves. The tail flower can grow up to about 16-20 inches tall and while it is pretty to look at, it is not safe for your pets. The dangers in this plant are insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, oxalate acid, and a proteolytic enzyme that can cause a dangerous allergic reaction. The insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are extremely small and sharp and can stick in your dog’s mouth, tongue, soft tissues of the throat, and intestinal tract. The inflammation caused by the crystals and the oxalic acid can cut off the airway if not treated right away.
Tail flower poisoning is a serious disorder that can be brought on by ingesting part of the plant because of the toxic substances proteolytic enzyme, insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, and oxalic acid. The enzyme has the potential to trigger an allergy attack that may be serious in some dogs. Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are sharp fragments that break into tiny spine-like materials when the foliage or flower is chewed on. These fragments will stick in your pet’s skin, causing inflammation and severe pain. The oxalic acid has corrosive properties that produce burning, blistering, and swelling anywhere it touches.
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Symptoms of Tail Flower Poisoning in Dogs
The signs you notice from your dog can vary depending on how much of the tail flower was eaten. Yelping and whining may be the first thing you become aware of. However, the symptoms noticed most often are:
- Excessive drooling
- Redness in the whites of the eyes
- Irritation of the mouth and tongue
- Inflammation of the tongue, mouth, throat, nose, and face
- Smacking lips
- Foaming from the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Burning and tingling in the mouth
- Pawing the mouth and face
- Not eating or drinking
- Trouble breathing or catching breath
- Heart rate irregularity (sometimes)
- Convulsions (rare)
- Death (rare)
Anthurium scherzerianum is the scientific name for the tail flower. It is from the Anthurium genus of the Anthuriae family. The Tail flower is sometimes referred to as:
- Pigtail plant
- Oilcloth flower
- Flamingo lily
- Flamingo plant
- Flamingo flower
Causes of Tail Flower Poisoning in Dogs
There are believed to be dozens of poisonous substances in the Tail flower, many that are unknown. However, the most common known toxins are:
- Oxalic acid causes burning, blisters, convulsions, and may even be fatal if not treated right away
- Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals produce immediate pain on contact as the jagged pieces get stuck in the skin
- Proteolytic enzymes initiate the release of proteins and histamines that cause swelling and possibly a dangerous allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock
Diagnosis of Tail Flower Poisoning in Dogs
Upon arrival at the veterinary clinic or animal hospital, you should give the veterinarian as much information as possible, such as when it happened, how much was ingested, and if there were any side effects yet. It is also very helpful if you can bring a sample of the plant or a photograph to show the veterinarian. Also, be sure to tell the veterinarian if you have given your pet any medication, whether over the counter or prescription.
Your pet will get a complete physical examination, which usually includes coat and skin condition, pupil reaction time, body weight and height, blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, respirations, breath sounds, and oxygen level. The veterinarian will likely do an endoscopy next, using an endoscope to get a good view of your dog’s throat and upper airway to look for obstructions or inflammation. If there are any plant particles, a small tool will be used to remove them. Your dog will be sedated for this procedure for safety and to reduce stress.
Laboratory tests are done afterward, including a urinalysis, serum chemistry profile, CBC (complete blood count), BUN (blood urea nitrogen), CMP (comprehensive metabolic panel), and PCV (packed cell volume). In addition, x-rays and an ultrasound will probably be done to check the rest of the digestive system for obstructions and swelling. Also, an MRI or CT scan may be performed to check kidney function.
Treatment of Tail Flower Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment varies depending on the symptoms and what the test results show. The most common way to treat poisoning cases consists of elimination, detoxing, medication, and observation.
This step involves giving your pet an emetic such as peroxide or ipecac to encourage vomiting. After, the veterinarian will give your dog activated charcoal to absorb undigested poisons.
Detoxing your dog is done by inserting an intravenous (IV) line to give fluids and electrolytes. This helps rehydrate your dog and flush the kidneys.
Medications that your veterinarian may use are antacids for stomach acid reduction, atropine for heart rate (if needed), and corticosteroids for pain and inflammation.
The veterinarian may want to keep your pet overnight for observation if the symptoms are severe or if treatment is not working well enough.
Recovery of Tail Flower Poisoning in Dogs
Be sure to prepare a quiet place for your pet to get some rest, and provide plenty of water. A bland diet will probably be suggested for a few days. The veterinarian may want you to come back in 7-10 days for a check-up, but if you have any problems before then, call your veterinarian for input and advice.