What is Taro Poisoning?
Taro plants are a favorite houseplant due to the attractive colors in the giant leaves. The huge oval leaves may be as large as two feet wide and three feet across. The bigger the leaf, the more the raphides. Chewing on or biting into the foliage damages the raphides and releases the crystals that penetrate tissue, producing injury and swelling. In fact, the inflammation has the potential to become dangerous. It may affect your pet’s ability to breathe. Another dangerous side effect is the buildup of calcium oxalate crystals in the kidney, which blocks the nephron tubules, renal veins, and ureters, causing kidney damage and possible kidney failure. Contact with the skin can also cause painful rash and blisters.
When consumed, the oxalic acid found in the taro plant releases raphides, which holds calcium oxalate crystals that penetrate the soft tissues of the mouth and intestinal tract. This produces numbness at first, quickly progressing to a painful stinging sensation. These crystals cause the tissue to become inflamed, which may be fatal if not treated promptly. The throat and airway may become swollen to the point of not being able to breathe, which is a medical emergency. The moment your pet bites into the plant, oxalate crystals are released from the raphides (bundles they are stored in) and embed themselves in the skin wherever there is contact. Skin irritation is immediate and triggers painful redness and blistering. The oxalates are not metabolized and are toxic to the kidneys, with the crystals getting embedded in the renal tubes and causing kidney failure if not treated.
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Symptoms of Taro Poisoning in Dogs
The side effects from eating taro vary depending on what part and how much of the plant is ingested. The leaves contain the most calcium oxalate raphides and crystals. Your dog’s overall health and age can also affect the symptoms and the severity of the symptoms. The most commonly reported signs of taro poisoning include:
- Red skin and eyes
- Eye irritation
- Tearing eyes
- Inflammation, blistering, and burning of the skin
- Pawing face and mouth
- Appetite loss
- Increased thirst and urination
- Tongue and mouth pain
- Burning throat, lips, mouth, and throat
- Swelling of the tongue and mouth
- Kidney damage (lack of urination, lethargy, vomiting, dehydration, edema)
- Breathing difficulty
- Respiratory arrest (with large doses)
- Death (rare)
The scientific name for Taro is Caladium hortulanum from the Araceae family although the taro plant is known by many other names. Some of these names are:
- Elephant's ears
- Fancy-leaved caladium
- Giant taro
- Mother-in-law plant
- Pink cloud
- Swamp taro
- Texas wonder
- Via sori
Causes of Taro Poisoning in Dogs
Insoluble calcium oxalate raphides and crystals will cause intense pain and swelling of tissues. The needle-like shards can also cause renal damage.
Diagnosis of Taro Poisoning in Dogs
To determine if your dog is suffering from taro poisoning, a veterinary professional has to do a physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging. If you cannot get an appointment with your usual veterinarian, it is recommended that you go to an emergency clinic or hospital. Even if you do not see any symptoms, it is possible that damage may be occurring in your pet’s system that you cannot see, so it is best to get your dog checked out. Try to bring a photograph or a portion of the plant so the veterinarian will know for sure what kind of toxin your dog ingested. Also, bring your pet’s medical records and vaccination reports if you have them, and tell the veterinarian if you have given any medications to your dog. This is important because certain medications may mask some symptoms.
The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination including pulse, respirations, breath sounds, blood pressure, reflexes, temperature, pupil reaction time, oxygen level, and weight. The laboratory testing that needs to be done includes:
- Glucose test
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
- Creatinine phosphokinase (CPK)
- Blood gases
- Total proteins
- Packed cell volume (to check for dehydration)
In addition, the veterinarian will most likely do an endoscopy, using an endoscope to check for obstructions and inflammation. The veterinarian can also insert a tool to remove plant particles and other foreign materials, if necessary. Abdominal x-rays will be done to check for obstructions and inflammation of the digestive system.
Treatment of Taro Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment will depend on symptoms and test results, but most often includes elimination, detoxing, medicating, and observing. Eliminating the toxins from your pet’s system is the main objective.
Emetics (ipecac or peroxide) will be given to induce vomiting. Activated charcoal will also be given, which will absorb the undigested toxins.
To detox your pet, the veterinarian will administer fluids through an intravenous (IV) line. This helps rehydrate your dog and flush the kidneys.
Medications given depends on the symptoms, but usually include antacids, electrolytes, and corticosteroids.
Your dog may need to be hospitalized for several hours for observation, but only if there are complications.
Recovery of Taro Poisoning in Dogs
Dogs who are seen by a veterinarian in a timely manner will have a good prognosis for recovery. Once released from the clinic, take your pet home to a quiet, restful environment. Provide plenty of water and a soft, bland diet as recommended by the veterinarian. Monitor your pet over the next few days to be certain his recovery goes as expected.
Taro Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
5 year old Staffordshire terrier was given some fully cooked taro root, he threw it all up a few hours later completely, about an hour later threw up pure clear liquid (a lot) then afterwards was fine tail wagging acting normal, checked for swelling (none) and no red eyes.(60lbs)
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14 hours ago, my son fed our dog root vegetable chips which included taro and batata, who has diarrhea and possible vomiting with what appears to be bright red blood, she doesn't seem to have any other symptoms. Is this something we need to get her into an emergency hospital or can it wait until morning? She only got w hand full of mixed root chips.
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