What is Wake Robin Poisoning?
The wake robin is an interesting plant. While it looks like it produces a flower, it actually acts as a fly trap instead. The plant is native to many regions but particularly the sub-tropical/tropical regions. While it is a unique plant, it is very toxic to your dog. It contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which can damage your dog’s mouth immediately after ingestion. Since so much irritation occurs immediately after only one bite, typically the dog spits it out. If your dog ends up swallowing the plant, it needs to be treated as a medical emergency. However, this is extremely rare and very unlikely. Most dogs just need supportive care and recover well once the crystals have been removed from his system.
The wake robin is a very unique looking plant. It contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which can harm your dog. If he chews or ingests this plant, contact your veterinarian.
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Symptoms of Wake Robin Poisoning in Dogs
As soon as your dog bites the wake robin plant, he will immediately develop symptoms. Symptoms may include:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Oral irritation
- Irritation of the mouth
- Irritation of the tongue
- Irritation of the lips
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
In more severe toxicity cases, your dog’s throat may become so irritated and swollen that he may develop breathing difficulties.
The wake robin belongs to the Araceae family with the scientific name of Arum maculatum. Common names this plant is known by includes arum, lord-and-ladies, Adam-and-Eve, cuckoo plant, bobbins, and starch root. All parts of this plant are toxic with the berries containing the highest concentration of toxin. This plant has a scent that attracts flies into its sheath like fly trap. The flies pollinate the fruit within which eventually ripen into bright red berries.
Causes of Wake Robin Poisoning in Dogs
Wake robin produces insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. Instead of dissolving when coming into contact with the moisture of the mouth, they stay in their crystal form and cut and harm your dog’s mouth. Right when this plant touches your dog’s mouth, he will immediately feel a burning sensation in his mouth leading him to spit them out. Depending on how much of the plant your dog bit into and how long he kept it in his mouth, his symptoms may vary. While extremely rare and almost unheard of, if your dog swallows a piece of this plant, it may be fatal. However, since your dog’s instinctive reaction is to spit it out once it hurts his mouth it is unlikely this will happen.
Diagnosis of Wake Robin Poisoning in Dogs
When you arrive at the veterinarian’s office, she will start by giving your dog a thorough examination. If your dog is displaying any symptoms of oral pain, if your dog will allow her, the veterinarian will try to look in his mouth for the source. If you noticed your dog experiencing his symptoms after biting into a plant or you find a piece of saliva covered plant near your pet when you notice his symptoms, bring it with you to the veterinarian’s office. This will give the veterinarian an idea of a possible cause and will allow her to identify the toxin the plant contains.
Blood work will consist of a chemistry panel and complete blood count (CBC) to give the veterinarian a look at how the toxin is affecting the internal organs, especially the filtering ones like the liver and kidneys. She may also run a urinalysis to check your dog’s urine for crystal formation indicating things are not flushing out of his body correctly.
Treatment of Wake Robin Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian will start by flushing out your dog’s mouth. This will remove any remaining crystals from his mouth before they can cause any more damage. The cool fluids should also help relieve some of the burning sensation your dog may be experiencing. She may also decide to give your dog activated charcoal to protect the lining of his gastrointestinal tract from damage the crystals may cause.
She will start your dog on intravenous fluids to keep your dog hydrated and to keep the fluids in his body moving. The more fluids that are pushed into your dog, more fluids will be pushed out with the toxin with it. An antihistamine will be administered to decrease any swelling your dog may be experiencing.
If your dog is having trouble breathing, the veterinarian may give him oxygen therapy via flow-by or by placing him in an oxygen cage. If neither of these options are sufficient, she may decide to place a nasal catheter as a source of oxygen administration.
Recovery of Wake Robin Poisoning in Dogs
Toxicity of wake robin may be considered mild to moderate. Most dogs recover very well with or without the help of supportive therapies. Since most of the toxicity symptoms are localized to the mouth from the crystals, his recovery should be fairly easy. He may not want to eat or drink much since his mouth will be irritated, but it is important to get him to try anyway. The veterinarian may give your dog subcutaneous fluids before he leaves the clinic to ensure he will not become dehydrated while waiting for the burning of his mouth to subside before he will drink on his own. If your dog experienced more severe symptoms, your veterinarian may want to keep him in the hospital for the night or next couple days. This will allow her to monitor him constantly and administer therapies or medications if needed.
The best thing you can do is stop your dog from eating unknown plants. Since this can be difficult, instead try to educate yourself on the plants around your home and remove ones that are a potential threat to your dog. The wake robin’s unique look should make it easier to identify than others and therefore makes it a little easier to locate and remove.