What is Wahoo Poisoning?
Wahoo is a shrub like plant that produces red fruit like berries and sometimes red leaves depending on the species of wahoo. When ingested by your dog, this plant can act as a strong laxative and has certain toxins that can affect his heart. Symptoms can range from gastrointestinal upset to heart malfunction; if his heart is affected, the rest of his body will be affected. The sooner you get your dog to the veterinarian, the sooner the detoxification process can begin. Most dogs recover well with observation and supportive therapies.
Wahoo is a plant native to many regions of North America. This plant also goes by the name of burning bush and spindle tree. If you believe your dog ingested a part of this plant, take him to a veterinarian.
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Symptoms of Wahoo Poisoning in Dogs
The amount of wahoo plant your dog ingests will determine his symptoms. Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain - Symptoms may include your dog in a hunching posture, in a ‘play bow’ posture for extended periods of time, not wanting to walk or move, continuously looking at his stomach
- Abnormal heart rhythm
The wahoo plant belongs to the Celastraceae family with the scientific genus of Euonymus. This plant also goes by the common names of burning bush and spindle tree even though each of these plants can be considered a different species. There is also a Western wahoo and Eastern wahoo that vary by location and species name. The wahoo plant is a shrub like plant that grows well in a wide range of environments due to its tolerable quality.
Causes of Wahoo Poisoning in Dogs
The wahoo plant contains alkaloids and cardenolides making it toxic to your dog when ingested. Scientists do not know why plants produce alkaloids but that maybe they are waste products of the plant. While alkaloids can have medicinal benefits and can be used as a drug, such as morphine, its raw form can be toxic.
Cardenolides can cause an effect on the heart and also cause vomiting. Cardenolides act as an inhibitor of the cation pump of cells. This leads to a disruption in the sodium potassium ratio and therefore causes issues with the essential physiological processes of the body.
Diagnosis of Wahoo Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms your dog is displaying will determine the course of diagnostics the veterinarian will perform. If he is vomiting and something is actually regurgitated, the veterinarian will examine the contents to try and identify what was ingested. If your dog is having diarrhea, she will take a fecal sample and run a float and smear to rule out possible internal parasites or a bacterial infection which can also cause this symptom.
If your dog is presenting a hunched posture or anything to indicate abdominal pain, the veterinarian may want to take a radiograph. This will allow her to get an internal look at your dog’s stomach. She will want to ensure your dog’s stomach did not flip or have a blockage, both of which would require immediate surgical correction. The radiograph will also let her see the remaining gastrointestinal tract for any abnormalities.
If your dog’s heart rhythm is abnormal, she may take a radiograph of the heart to check for an enlargement or any other possible cause of the symptom. In addition to this, she may perform an ultrasound to get a different view of the heart and an ECG to visually see your dog’s heartbeat on paper and therefore evaluate the individual waves of the heart.
Basic diagnostic blood work will also be performed to evaluate the status of your dog’s internal organs; especially the filtering ones like the kidneys and liver. A complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel will provide the veterinarian with a basic overall look of how the body is handling the toxin.
Treatment of Wahoo Poisoning in Dogs
Once your dog is properly diagnosed, treatment can be implemented. Fluid therapy will be started immediately with the addition of electrolytes. This will provide your dog’s system a constant inflow of fluids to increase the rate he is passing the fluids, and the toxin with it, out of his system.
When the veterinarian is sure the abdominal pain is being caused by what your dog ingested, she may try to induce vomiting. This should rid the stomach of any remaining plant particles before they can be further absorbed. If this is unsuccessful, the veterinarian may administer activated charcoal to bind to and absorb the toxin before his body does. The charcoal will also serve as a protective layer for the stomach and digestive system to prevent further damage from the toxin.
Depending on the heart abnormality, the veterinarian may administer cardiac medications to regulate it. Once the toxin has left your dog’s system, the rhythm should return to normal. If it does not, there are other medications your veterinarian can prescribe to get him on the right track. If your dog is experiencing weakness or having trouble moving around, he may be moved to a safe, confined place to prevent him from accidentally hurting himself. The weakness should subside once the toxin is out of his body.
Recovery of Wahoo Poisoning in Dogs
Toxicity of wahoo poisoning can be considered mild to moderate. However, if your dog ingests a large amount and the heart is affected, it is considered more severe. Most dogs recover well with the help of supportive therapies. The veterinarian may want to keep your dog in the hospital overnight or a couple days until his lab work comes back normal. This will ensure the toxin is completely out of his system and safe to go home.
Before you bring any plant into your home or garden, be sure to educate yourself first. The last thing you want to do is bring home a plant you didn’t know was toxic to your dog and he ingests a part of it. If you have this plant on your property due to its native growth region, try to only let it grow in an area your dog does not have access to. Do not let him chew on any unknown vegetation while out on a walk and consider teaching him to not chew on any form of vegetation whatsoever.