What is Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning?
The Texas umbrella tree, which is part of the Mahogany family native to Australia and Asia, can grow up to 30-150 feet tall, and has large, deep green, lacy leaves, and light purple flowers. The bark and wood of the Texas umbrella tree is similar to mahogany and is used in making furniture and planks for building after being seasoned and treated. The wood is also resistant to insects, fungus, and rarely warps, making it a suitable alternative to Burmese teak. However, the yellow berries are dangerous to your dog because of the poisonous substances tannic acid, margosin, tetranortriterpenoid neurotoxin (meliatoxin), and various other unknown alkaloids and glycosides. Consuming just six of these marble sized fruits can be lethal to a grown man. These berries are used in making insecticides, oil, soap, and other chemicals.
The Texas umbrella tree is dangerous due to the neurotoxins it contains, which are found throughout the tree, but mostly in the berries. As a matter of fact, the poisons are so concentrated in the berries that just a few can be fatal for your dog. There are several toxic chemicals in the Texas umbrella tree, mostly concentrated in the pale yellow berries that are resistant to cold and will continue to hang on throughout most of the winter. These poisons can cause serious symptoms in your dog ranging from gastric irritation to heart attack and death. If your pet has eaten any part of the Texas umbrella tree, a visit to see your veterinarian is recommended right away.
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Symptoms of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog eats part of a Texas umbrella tree, signs can be mild, moderate, or even life-threatening. This all depends on how much and what part of the tree your pet ingested. The berries are the most toxic, especially when they are ripe. Some of the side effects that you may notice if your dog is experiencing Texas umbrella tree poisoning include:
- Stomach pain
- Appetite loss
- Diarrhea followed by constipation
- Bloody feces
- Muscle spasms
- Lack of coordination
- Slow heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Liver and kidney damage
- Cardiac arrest (heart attack)
The botanical name of the Texas umbrella tree is Melia azedarach from the Melia genus in the Meliaceae family. It also goes by many other names, such as:
- White cedar
- Umbrella tree
- Umbrella cedar
- Syringa berrytree
- Persian lilac
- Paradise tree
- Japanese bead tree
- Chinaberry tree
- China ball tree
- Ceylon mahogany
- Ceylon cedar
- Cape lilac
- Bead tree
Causes of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Dogs
There are many toxic principles in the Texas umbrella tree, but some of them are unknown. The toxins that are recognized include:
- Tannic acid
- Tetranortriterpenoid neurotoxin (meliatoxin)
Diagnosis of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Dogs
If you are unable to get an appointment with your regular veterinarian, you should take your pet to the emergency clinic or animal hospital. It is recommended that you bring a sample of the tree or a picture to show the veterinarian as it will help narrow down the diagnosis. Be sure to inform the veterinarian if you have given your dog any medications and bring a copy of your pet’s medical records if you have them handy.
The diagnosis starts with a comprehensive physical examination including reflexes, pupil reaction time, body temperature, weight, skin and coat condition, lung sounds, respiration and heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen level. Diagnostic tests include a complete blood count (CBC), gas chromatography, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), creatinine phosphokinase (CPK), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), packed cell volume (PCV), and blood urea nitrogen (BUN).
An electrocardiograph (EKG) is also needed to check the cardiac function. Following these tests, the veterinarian may want to give your pet an endoscopy to get a good look at the throat, esophagus, and upper airway. If there are any obstructions or plant residue, the veterinarian will be able to remove them by inserting a tube through the endoscope. Your dog will be sedated during this procedure. Finally, abdominal and chest x-rays and ultrasounds may be done to check organ function and look for intestinal blockages.
Treatment of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Ridding the body of the toxic principles found in the Texas umbrella tree is done by encouraging emesis (vomiting), by giving your dog ipecac or peroxide. This is usually followed by giving active charcoal by mouth to adhere to the undigested plant residue so it can be expelled safely during defecation.
An intravenous line may be started to combat dehydration if blood tests reveal a need. Medications can also be administered this way. The veterinarian will give your dog H2 blockers to calm the stomach, atropine to regulate the heartbeat, and antibiotics to prevent antibiotics. If there is kidney damage, dialysis may be necessary until the kidneys are healthier. If your dog is not stable, the veterinarian may recommend a night in the hospital for observation and supplemental treatment.
Recovery of Texas Umbrella Tree Poisoning in Dogs
Recovery depends on the condition of the liver or kidneys after the event. If there is any lasting damage to the vital organs, your dog’s life expectancy may be shortened, but your veterinarian will explain all the options that are available for your pet. Provide a quiet place for your dog to rest and recover once you are home and do not hesitate to call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns. Your veterinarian may suggest a follow up appointment to evaluate the kidneys and liver again within a week or two.