What is Winter Cherry Poisoning?
The winter cherry plant is toxic, whether your dog eats the berries or the leaves. The highest level of toxicity, though, originates in the berries. If your dog has chewed on the berries or leaves, this may produce an irritating effect on the throat and mouth; you will see the obvious signs of drooling, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Most dogs will not consume too much of this plant, but that does not mean that you should take a wait and see approach. See a veterinary specialist right away. High levels of consumption could potentially result in death.
Winter cherry plant is related to the deadly nightshade plant family. The plant is small, red and round. It carries an orange fruit that, when eaten, can poison your dog.
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Symptoms of Winter Cherry Poisoning in Dogs
When your pet ingests winter cherry, it may be out of boredom or curiosity. Whatever the reason, the symptoms are real. You could expect:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Losing coordination
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated pupils
- Bloody diarrhea
- Respiratory problems
The toxin found in the winter cherry plant is solanocapsine. Other names this plant is known by are Jerusalem cherry, Christmas cherry and ground cherry.
Causes of Winter Cherry Poisoning in Dogs
There are several risks associated with winter cherry poisoning. Be careful when growing this plant indoors or in a garden. If you have a small dog, be mindful that the risks will increase. The main cause for poisoning is eating the berries and fruits, or any other part of the plant. The ingestion of the plant can cause mild symptoms, or in the case of a large amount of consumption, effects on the central nervous system that could be life-threatening.
Diagnosis of Winter Cherry Poisoning in Dogs
If you find seeds, berries, leaves or juice in your dog’s mouth, poisoning could be easily diagnosed. If the plant grows in your home or garden, you should always try to trim and prune the dead leaves and stems in order to discard them carefully. If your pet is in the vicinity and is acting ill, check his mouth for visible signs of the plant. If ingestion is not obvious, your veterinarian will look for other symptoms such as bloody stool and vomiting, which could be the first warning signs of toxicity. Give as much information about the plant to your veterinarian with an estimate of how much of the plant was ingested. The veterinarian will ask for the dog’s age and past medical history, including recent illnesses or medication prescribed.
Other determining factors may include:
- Your pet’s clinical signs
- Time that the plant was ingested
- The exact part of the plant that was ingested
Blood tests and urinalysis will be done, but if stabilization of your pet is required first, this will be the priority.
Treatment of Winter Cherry Poisoning in Dogs
When your dog ingests winter cherry plant, as long as you take action immediately, the prognosis will be favorable. If vomiting did not occur prior to the visit, the veterinarian will induce vomiting to get a sample of the stomach contents. Gastric lavage may be performed if your dog ingested a large portion of the plant. The stomach will be flushed and activated medical charcoal will be administered to get the toxins out of the stomach.
Intravenous fluids will also be administered in the case of severe dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea. This will also help to maintain your pet’s electrolyte balance. The veterinarian will monitor your dog’s temperature, breathing pattern, pulse and blood pressure. Your dog will receive treatment for specific symptoms, such as anti-seizure medication if his symptoms have progressed this far. For breathing difficulties, oxygen will be given to stabilize your companion’s heart rate and to assist with his breathing, thus allowing for a more relaxed state.
Recovery of Winter Cherry Poisoning in Dogs
Winter cherry poisoning is rarely fatal because most dog’s do not ingest enough to cause death. Progress should be made over a period of days although your dog will need rest and a bland diet until any irritation of the stomach is healed.