What is Variegated Philodendron Poisoning?
The variegated philodendron plant is one of over 450 species of the popular house plant. Having a genus of the same name, this plant is native to the tropics in America and is considered a plant that lives from other plants, or epiphyte. With the philodendron, life begins as a vine and grows and spreads very rapidly. It is a hardy plant.
The striking foliage may be a variety of colors, such as green (most common), reddish, copper, or purple in hue. It also produces berries that are white and orange. The reason they are so common indoors is because are native to the lower lit areas of the rainforest, such as under the canopy. Many people purchase these for their homes and offices, and enjoy them because they are so easy to maintain. Trimming the leaves back periodically prohibits the plant from growing too rapidly and also keeps it healthy and full of life.
The variegated philodendron is very similar to the many other plants of the philodendron family. It also shares the characteristic of being highly toxic, as it contains insoluble calcium oxalates, which spring to life when chewed upon. These are the plant’s natural defense mechanism towards predators.
Variegated philodendron poisoning in dogs occurs when dogs ingest all or part of the variegated philodendron plant. This plant contains insoluble calcium oxalates which are toxic to dogs and other small animals.
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Symptoms of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of insoluble calcium oxalate toxicity can be even more severe if the plant is swallowed. Symptoms include:
- Pawing at the face
- Swollen airway
- Swollen esophagus
- Swollen mouth and face area
- Gastrointestinal pain
There are many other plants which contain insoluble calcium oxalates that should be kept out of homes of animal owners. Types include:
- Flamingo plant
- Dumb cane
- Elephants ear
- Calla lily
- Fruit salad plant
- Peace lily
Causes of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Dogs
Causes of insoluble calcium oxalate toxicity are due to the natural defense chemicals. Causes include:
- The actions of calcium oxalate crystals (insoluble)
- The needle sharp crystals, or raphides, penetrating the oral tissue when chewed
- The release of irritating histamines by the crystals, or raphides
- The severe pain and inflammation of the lining of the stomach and esophagus (when ingested)
Diagnosis of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has eaten or chewed a variegated philodendron plant, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms can begin very quickly or within a few hours, which is dependent on the amount consumed and if any of the plant was completely chewed and ingested. Taking a part of the plant into the appointment with you can also help the veterinarian come to a rapid diagnosis.
Your veterinarian will be looking for symptoms of toxicity from insoluble calcium oxalates. The beginning of the visit will consist of treating any distressing symptoms. Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals present symptoms that are easily recognized, so even though the toxicity can be dangerous to your dog, the veterinarian will be able to confirm the condition and begin treatment 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 insoluble calcium oxalate crystals could cause the swelling of the esophagus or very swollen airways.
Treatment of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Dogs
Monitoring and Support
The veterinarian will immediately rinse your dog’s face and mouth area to free him of the crystals that are quite painful. The veterinarian will make an assessment of his other symptoms and treat them symptomatically. If crystals got into the eyes of your dog, the veterinarian will perform an eye wash with a saline solution.
Emesis is not always recommended if a dog has chewed and ingested any of the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. If your dog’s esophagus is clear and not swollen and if your dog is breathing freely, the veterinarian may choose to induce vomiting to remove the toxic substance. In many cases, veterinarians will perform gastric lavage to flush out the contents of the stomach. This is done by the insertion of a tube into the dog’s mouth and down through the esophagus, flushing out the stomach with saline, and removing the contents.
If your dog is having difficulty breathing due to the ingestion of the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, oxygen therapy will be given. 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.
The restoration of electrolytes is very important, and keeping your dog hydrated is important as well. Fluid therapy will be given to restore his system to begin recovering.
Your pet may require medications such as antihistamines in case of airway or tongue swelling, and anti-nausea drugs to combat excessive vomiting.
Recovery of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Dogs
In order for your dog to recover from variegated philodendron poisoning, he may be in the veterinary hospital for at least a few days. 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 consist of feeding him a bland diet, either prescription or a list of foods recommended by your veterinarian, plenty of rest, plenty of daily fresh water, and consistent monitoring.