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What is Tulip Poisoning?

Tulips are a popular flower due to their bright and cheerful appearance. They also contain glycosides which can be extremely detrimental to the health of animals that eat them. Poisonings can occur from consuming any part of the plant, although the highest concentrations of the alkaloids are found in the bulb of the plant. If your pet consumes material from the tulip plant, it is important to contact a veterinarian for further instructions. Consumption of this plant can be fatal, and supportive treatment improves the chance of survival.

The tulip is a brightly colored member of the lily family that contains a toxic alkaloid, Tuliposide A. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet has ingested the tulip.

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Tulip Poisoning Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Tulip Poisoning in Dogs

Poisoning symptoms from ingestion of the tulip plant, particularly the bulb of the tulip, occur within just a few hours. When the plant material other than the bulb is eaten, it takes a relatively large amount before toxic signs emerge. Even a single bulb, however, is likely to elicit a much stronger reaction. Signs that your pet has ingested any part of the tulip plant could include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Coma
  • Depression 
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Types

Although the tulip bulb is one of the more noxious of the plant bulbs out there, it is by no means the only flower bulb that contains serious toxins. Other plant bulbs that can be detrimental to your pet include:

  • Amaryllis bulb - toxic component, lycorine 

  • Daffodil bulb - toxic component, lycorine
  • Narcissus bulb - toxic components, lycorine, galantamine, and scillitoxin

  • Hyacinth bulb - toxic component, tuliposide A  
  • Onion bulb - toxic component, thiosulphate

  • Autumn Crocus - toxic component, colchicine
  • Crinum bulb - toxic component, galantamine

These plants usually contain their specific toxins throughout the plant, but the compound tends to be much more concentrated in the bulb.

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Causes of Tulip Poisoning in Dogs

The toxicity of the tulip lies in the glycoside that it produces, called Tuliposide A, also referred to as Tulipalin A. This particular glycoside inhibits protein synthesis in the cells. Tuliposide has a very high rate of reactivity because it links at a double bond site. This glycoside is found throughout the plant but is concentrated in the bulb and is the same compound that causes a condition called “tulip-fingers,” a dry and often cracked thickening of the skin that occurs in people who handle tulips on a regular basis.

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Diagnosis of Tulip Poisoning in Dogs

Identification is often all that is required for a preliminary diagnosis if the consumption of the plant was witnessed. If your canine ate a plant bulb and you are uncertain of the type, take a sample of any remaining bulb or plant material into the veterinarian to ensure a speedier identification for treatment. If you didn’t observe the ingestion of the plant your veterinarian will take note of any opportunistic eating that is suspected in addition to any concurrent prescriptions or supplements that your dog is taking in an attempt to reveal which toxin is responsible for the reaction, and to check for any drug interactions that may affect the treatment plan. A biochemistry profile will also be used to this end, as will a complete blood count and urinalysis with particular attention being paid to results regarding liver and kidney functionality. Any plant material found in the vomit will help confirm the diagnosis.

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Treatment of Tulip Poisoning in Dogs

Initial treatment will depend on how long it has been since the bulb or other plant material was ingested, and what symptoms have emerged. If large amounts of the leaves or flowers have been ingested, or if your dog ate one of the bulbs, he will need to be admitted to the veterinary hospital for decontamination and supportive treatments. If the tulip was consumed recently, vomiting will most likely be induced to prevent the absorption of the glycoside into the bloodstream. Activated charcoal will be given to attempt to soak up as much of the toxin as possible. If it has been a more extended period of time a gastric lavage under general anesthetic may be more appropriate to remove as much of the material from the patient’s stomach as possible. There is no antidote to Tuliposide, so treatment beyond that is supportive, including intravenous fluids for dehydration as well as mixtures of electrolytes and sugars to adjust for any imbalances that develop. Oxygen will be administered to the dog as well if breathing is becoming difficult, and the heart will be carefully monitored.

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Recovery of Tulip Poisoning in Dogs

A calm, quiet setting to return home to will help speed recovery for the patient. Although symptoms of the poisoning usually last only a few hours, dogs that are recovering from anesthesia, as would be required for gastric lavage, may have coordination difficulties when they first get home. They are often confused and disoriented, and isolation from other pets and from children may be advisable until both the glycosides and sedatives have fully cleared your companion’s system. In some circumstances, your veterinarian may recommend regular monitoring of blood chemistry levels for your pet, particularly in relation to liver and kidney functionality or impairment. If you have any questions or concerns as your dog goes through the recovery, call the clinic for advice.

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Tulip Poisoning Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$800

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Tulip Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Doctor

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Australian Cattle Dog

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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2 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My dog dug up a rotten tulip bulb, I caught him within seconds of digging it up, but because it was mush I am unsure if any got in his mouth. What is the best thing to do?

June 8, 2018

Doctor's Owner

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2 Recommendations

It is best to rinse out his mouth to be on the safe side and monitor him for any symptoms; it is unlikely that any was actually consumed but keep a close eye for symptoms and visit your Veterinarian if you have any concerns. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 9, 2018

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Dakota

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Golden Retriever

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11 Years

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Fair severity

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2 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Multiple Sympt

My dog Dakota passed away 2 nights ago. We didn’t realize until yesterday morning after sh was gone that she had dug up and eaten 10-15 tulip bulbs completely. she was acting labored all day, drooling and started having walking difficulties towards the end. It was late at night on a holiday weekend and we were going to see how she was in the morning to determine if emergency vet care was needed. We had no idea this was going to be fatal. We feel tremendous guilt now. Wish we had known about the bulb toxicity sooner.

May 29, 2018

Dakota's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

I'm sorry that that happened to Dakota. It is quite possible that the tulip bulbs were the cause of her death. Unfortunately, many of the plants that we enjoy are quite toxic to our pets. I am sorry for your loss.

May 29, 2018

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Tulip Poisoning Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$800

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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