What is Weeping Fig Poisoning?
The weeping fig can grow up to 100 feet tall in Australia and Asia. It has also been adapted to grow outdoors in Florida and Arizona, although not quite as large, and it has become a common houseplant or potted tree in other parts of the United States. The weeping fig tree comes in various sizes and styles, but they all have leaves that are glossy and rubbery. Since they are so easy to care for, they can be found in almost any nursery and are a common sight in offices and shopping malls. The weeping fig leaves and the figs both have ficusin and ficin, so it is best not to have this plant anywhere your dog can reach.
Weeping fig poisoning is a common and serious disorder in dogs with access to the plant. The leaves and fruit can be irresistible to your pet whether indoors or out, and the whole tree contains toxic chemicals that cause dangerous side effects. The weeping fig tree, also called the ficus tree, can usually be found in stores or nurseries as the ficus plant. There are two poisonous substances in the weeping fig, which are ficusin (psoralen) and ficin (proteolytic enzyme). Ficusin causes photo dermatitis, which can be extreme in some cases. Ficin is more serious, and actually destroys the protein in your dog’s body, which is needed to repair body tissues, create enzymes and hormones, and build cartilage, muscles, and bones.
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Symptoms of Weeping Fig Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of weeping fig tree poisoning can vary as each dog is different and so is the amount of toxins in the various types. However, the most common symptoms reported are:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth pain
- Pawing at the face
- Redness to the skin
- Skin inflammation
Regardless of whether your dog shows any symptoms or not, you should call your veterinarian or visit an animal hospital or clinic right away.
The scientific name of the weeping fig tree is ficus benjamina, which is in the rosales order of the moraceae family. Some of the other common names are:
- Benjamin’s fig
- Climbing fig
- Ficus benjamina
- Fig tree
- Indian rubber plant
- Rubber plant
- Rubber tree
Causes of Weeping Fig Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of weeping fig poisoning is consumption of any part of the ficus benjamina plant, including the leaves, stems, and fruit. There are two toxins in the weeping fig known to cause side effects in dogs.
- Proteolytic enzyme (ficin) which is an enzyme that destroys the protein in your dog’s body
- Psoralen (ficusin) causes photosensitivity and severe skin irritation
- Both enzymes cause dermatitis and blistering on the skin and gastrointestinal distress
Diagnosis of Weeping Fig Poisoning in Dogs
Even if you have not seen any signs of toxicity, if your dog consumed any part of a weeping fig tree you should see a veterinary professional as soon as possible because waiting can make it more difficult to treat. Your veterinarian will do a complete and thorough physical examination which includes vital statistics, overall appearance, stature, reflexes, and abdominal palpation. The veterinarian will ask you for more details about what your dog ate and when, whether you have seen any symptoms, as well as your dog’s medical history and vaccination records if you have them.
A urinalysis, blood chemistry analysis, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and creatinine (CREA) levels will be performed to check the kidney function. In addition, a blood count, glucose blood gas levels are needed to determine how much toxin is in your dog’s body and if any other damage has occurred. Additionally, x-rays of the abdomen can give the veterinarian a view of what is going on inside your dog. Sometimes, for a more detailed view, an ultrasound and CT scan are necessary.
Treatment of Weeping Fig Poisoning in Dogs
Your dog’s treatment plan will depend on how much was consumed and what the test results show. Most often, triggering emesis (vomiting) with a hydrogen peroxide solution is done to get rid of as much of the plant as possible. Activated charcoal will be given to soak up the toxins, and a gastric lavage will rid the body of whatever remains. Intravenous fluids will be given to flush the kidneys and prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog has any skin irritation, the veterinarian will prescribe a topical ointment to relieve the inflammation, pain, and itching.
Recovery of Weeping Fig Poisoning in Dogs
As long as you got professional help for your dog, weeping fig poisoning is usually cleared up without complications within 24 hours. The skin irritation may continue for several weeks, but the medication should help and you should call your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions. Return for a follow-up appointment as needed and be sure to remove the weeping fig tree from your garden.