What is Tropic Snow Poisoning?
Tropic snow is an herbaceous plant that comes in approximately thirty different species. Tropic snow is popular for the use of decorative effects indoors within homes, office buildings, businesses, hospitals, and other public facilities. It is quite popular as an indoor plant because it is very hardy, grows well in low light, and is a vivid, bright green that is pleasing to the eye.
Scientifically known as Dieffenbachia bowmannii, tropic snow is a member of the Arum, or Araceae, family. Also referred to as dumb cane, the large and fancy leaves may be variegated, and the plant may be higher than six feet with lighter markings along the veins of the leaves. The longer spadix features small flowers, with the male flowers on top of the female flowers. Berries of reddish-orange color are also characteristic of this plant. Very striking in appearance, tropic snow is also quite toxic to dogs and small animals as it contains insoluble calcium oxalates.
Tropic snow poisoning is the direct result of dogs consuming quantities of the tropic snow plant, commonly known as dumb cane. Tropic snow contains insoluble calcium oxalates which are toxic to dogs and other small animals.
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Symptoms of Tropic Snow Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of tropic snow poisoning are equal to any other plant which contains calcium oxalates of the insoluble kind. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, depending on how much of the plant was consumed and if it was swallowed by your dog. Symptoms include:
- Shaking of the head
- Swollen tongue
- Swollen mouth
- Pawing at the face
- Swelling in the face
- Difficulty breathing due to airway obstruction
- Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Swelling of the esophagus
There are other common names by which tropic snow is known.
- Giant dumb cane
- Dumb cane
- Exotica perfection
- Charming dieffenbachia
Causes of Tropic Snow Poisoning in Dogs
Causes of toxicity from the tropic snow plant stem from the plant being consumed by your dog. Specific toxicity reasoning includes:
- The containment of calcium oxalate crystals (insoluble)
- The needle sharp crystals, or raphides, penetrating the mouth when chewed
- The release of toxic histamines by these crystals
- The histamines causing intense inflammation in the mouth
- When swallowed, the intense pain and inflammation of the lining of the stomach and esophagus
Diagnosis of Tropic Snow Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has consumed some of the tropic snow plant, call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms may develop very rapidly or within a few hours, depending on the amount consumed and if any of the plant was completely chewed and swallowed. Taking a portion of the plant in with you can also help the veterinarian come to a faster diagnosis.
Once you take your dog to the office or veterinary hospital, your veterinarian will begin assessing your dog immediately. The beginning of the visit will consist of immediate assessment and treating any outright symptoms of discomfort. Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals present their own symptoms that are easily recognized, so even though the toxicity can be dangerous to your dog, the veterinarian will be able to assess the condition rather quickly.
The veterinarian will take blood work, a urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. The veterinarian may also induce vomiting to check for any plant material within the contents. The induction of vomiting for a diagnosis will be carefully decided upon, as with insoluble calcium oxalate crystals could cause the swelling of the esophagus or very swollen airways.
Treatment of Tropic Snow Poisoning in Dogs
Once your veterinarian has come to a diagnosis, the treatment methods for ingesting insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are very similar. Treatment methods include:
The veterinarian will immediately rinse your dog’s face and mouth area to free him of the crystals that are so painful. The veterinarian will also assess his other symptoms and treat them symptomatically. If crystals got into the eyes of the dog, the veterinarian will perform an eye wash.
Emesis or Gastric Lavage
Emesis is not always recommended if the dog has swallowed any of the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. If your dog’s esophagus is not swollen and if your dog is breathing freely, the veterinarian may decide to go this route. In many cases, veterinarians choose to perform gastric lavage to flush out the contents of the stomach. This is performed by inserting a tube into the dog’s mouth and down through the esophagus and flushing out the stomach with saline and removing the contents.
Your dog may be having difficulty breathing due to the ingestion of the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. Swelling of the esophagus and even the airways can occur. Oxygen therapy may be used with your dog to help him breathe properly and ease any discomfort, which will also reduce his stress level. This may be performed by using an air-flow device or within an oxygen cage.
The restoration of electrolytes is very important, and keeping your dog hydrated is important as well. Fluid therapy is an ideal way to treat these conditions.
Within your dog’s IV, your veterinarian may make the decision to provide him with an antihistamine if your dog's throat and airway are swelling.
Recovery of Tropic Snow Poisoning in Dogs
In order for your dog to recover from tropic snow poisoning, he may be in the veterinary hospital anywhere from a few days to longer. This depends on his level of poisoning and how well he is recovering during his hospital stay.
Once your dog is able to come home from the hospital, your veterinarian will have specific instructions for you to follow in terms of his aftercare. This may include a special bland diet, either prescription or a list of foods recommended by your veterinarian, plenty of rest, plenty of fresh water, and constant monitoring.
Most dogs recover from tropic snow toxicity if treatment has made a positive impact. In order to prevent insoluble calcium oxalate poisoning in the future, study the plants in and around your home and remove them from the home if they contain this toxic element. If you are unsure of which plants are toxic, you may contact your veterinarian or local Humane Society.