What is Wood Lily Poisoning?
The wood lily is a beautiful flower that looks slightly different than the other flowers in the lily family. The petals are usually reddish orange with dark purple spots that may almost look brown. The stalk is about two feet tall with whorled leaves and each stalk has approximately one to five flowers that are shaped like funnels. It is a perennial wildflower that is native to Canada and the Northeastern United States. While it is a beautiful flower, you should never allow your dog access to them since the entire plant is toxic, with the root (tuber) being the most toxic. Ingestion of just one tuber from a wood lily can be lethal to your dog or cat and has even been known to be life-threatening if eaten by children as well.
Wood lily poisoning in dogs is common in Northern America and Canada where the flower grows wild. In the wood lily there are colchicine alkaloids that can produce dangerous side effects if consumed by your dog. These effects can range from diarrhea to liver and kidney damage, and can quickly be fatal if not treated immediately. The colchicine alkaloids interfere with your dog’s ability to make platelets and blood cells, which can cause serious anemia, leading to multiple organ failure and death. If you think your dog has eaten any part of a wood lily, call your veterinarian or emergency animal clinic or hospital immediately. Fast treatment is vital to saving your dog’s life.
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Symptoms of Wood Lily Poisoning in Dogs
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Dehydration (dark urine, depression, dry skin, extreme thirst, loss of skin elasticity, reduced urination, sleepiness, sunken eyes)
- Kidney failure (swollen abdomen, marked increase or decrease in urination)
- Liver failure (abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, swollen abdomen, vomiting, yellow skin and eyes)
- * Redness of the eyes, mouth, and tongue
- Hiding under furniture or outside
Lilium philadelphicum is the scientific name for the wood lily. It is in the Lilaceae family of the lilium genus and order of the lilales. All lilies can make your dog sick, but there are some that are mildly toxic and some that can be lethal. Some of the mild lilies are calla, Peruvian, and peace lilies and the more toxic ones are Western, red, stargazer, rubrum, Japanese show, Easter, Asiatic, day, tiger, and wood lilies. The easiest way to remember is that the ones that are most dangerous start with the scientific name Lilium or Hemerocallis. However, to be on the safe side, you should not bring any kind of lily into your home and if you have some in your yard, make sure your dog cannot get to them. They have been known to dig up the tubers just to eat them. Alternate names for the wood lily are Philadelphia lily, prairie lily and Western red lily.
Causes of Wood Lily Poisoning in Dogs
Colchicine alkaloids are the cause of wood lily poisoning. This toxic substance can lead to multiple organ (liver, pancreas, kidneys) failure and death if not treated right away. The alkaoid is most concetrated in the tubers of the plant, but consumption of any part of the wood lily can cause severe toxicity.
Diagnosis of Wood Lily Poisoning in Dogs
It will help speed up the diagnosis if you bring a part of the lily with you as well as your dog’s medical records. The faster your veterinarian can get a definitive diagnosis the sooner the treatment can begin. With colchicine poisoning, time can determine whether your dog lives or dies because the toxicity works quickly to cause irreparable damage to your dog’s vital organs.
It can also help if you tell the veterinarian the specifics about when your dog consumed the plant, what part, and how much was eaten. Your dog’s breed, age, vaccinations, previous injury or illness, overall health, and appetite changes should be given to the veterinarian. The veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination which includes weight, body temperature, reflexes, heart rate, lung sounds, blood pressure, respirations, pulse oximetry, and inspection of the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Palpation of the abdomen will likely show inflammation of the liver or pancreas.
Some laboratory tests needed are a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, blood gases, and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels. A urinalysis should show a decrease in specific gravity and increased nitrogen, glucose, and lipase. An increase in phosphates, potassium, and proteins will confirm the diagnosis. Radiographs (x-rays) and CT scan will be done to get a look at your dog’s intestinal tract and vital organs. In addition, an ultrasound will be used to measure the size of the pancreas, liver, and kidneys.
Treatment of Wood Lily Poisoning in Dogs
No effective antidote is known yet, so the veterinarian will use a special peroxide solution to induce vomiting and give intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration. A binder, such as charcoal, will be administered to absorb the colchicine while a sterile gastric lavage will be used to wash away any remaining toxins in the system. The IV fluids will be continued in the hospital for several hours or overnight depending on your dog’s symptoms. If your dog has signs of renal damage, dialysis will be started right away to prevent kidney failure.
Recovery of Wood Lily Poisoning in Dogs
If treatment is started within the first 12 hours of ingestion, the chance of recovery is good. Unfortunately, if there is any kind of organ failure, the prognosis is guarded to poor, depending on the age and health of your dog. If that is the case, the veterinarian will keep your dog to provide supportive treatment when needed. Be sure to remove any lilies from inside or outside of your home and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns.