What is Yucca Poisoning?
The yucca plant is also known as spoon-leaf, silk-grass, needle-palm, bear-grass, Spanish bayonet, common yucca, and Adam's needle. These perennial plants come in many forms, but most have long, thick, pointed leaves and tall stalks with white flowers. The steroidal saponins are found in the entire plant, including the roots, and it has a foaming ability that causes the intestinal effects nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If enough of the plant is eaten, or in small or older dogs, the effects can quickly turn to weakness, confusion, and possibly seizures.
Yucca poisoning is caused by the yucca plant, which is a common desert plant that also has many varieties that grow in all parts of the United States. The toxic compounds in the yucca are steroidal saponins that produce serious intestinal irritation and even central nervous system effects if a large enough amount of the plant is eaten. Luckily, it had a foul taste and causes immediate stomach upset so it is usually not eaten in fatal doses.
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Symptoms of Yucca Poisoning in Dogs
Unfortunately, because the yucca is a common plant, poisoning is not uncommon. Symptoms of poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- Appetite loss
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive drooling
- Increased heart rate
- Liver disease
- Loss of control over bodily movements
- Stomach irritation
- Walking difficulty
Of the Asparagaceae family in the order of the asparagales, the yucca ranges from small shrubs to large trees with many varieties of blooms and native areas, but they are all toxic to dogs. Examples are:
- Yucca confinis
- Yucca endlichiana
- Yucca gloriosa
- Yucca recurvifolia
- Yucca elephantipes
- Yucca aloifolia
- Yucca yucatana
- Yucca rupicola
- Yucca thompsoniana
- Yucca coahuilensis
- Yucca campestris
- Yucca constricta
Causes of Yucca Poisoning in Dogs
The poisonous compounds in the yucca are the steroidal saponins. This agent has the capability to foam when consumed and that is what causes the intestinal upset in your dog. Even though the yucca has an unpleasant taste, many dogs will eat it anyway, causing symptoms that range from vomiting to increased heart rate. If you believe your dog has consumed any part of a yucca, visit your veterinarian or animal hospital right away.
Diagnosis of Yucca Poisoning in Dogs
Bring a portion of the yucca with you to the veterinarian to help aid in diagnosis. When you arrive, they will perform a physical examination, including overall condition, heart rate, breath sounds, respiratory rate, blood pressure, body temperature, weight, reflexes, and oxygen levels. Be sure to give them all the details about the incident, such as how much and what part of the plant your dog ate. You should also tell the veterinarian about your dog’s health history, vaccination records, unusual behavior, or appetite changes. Laboratory tests will be done next, including biochemical profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), electrolyte and glucose levels. To check if your dog is dehydrated, a packed cell volume (PCV) test will probably be done.
An endoscopy could also be performed to view the esophagus and remove any plant material. This procedure is done using an endoscope, which is a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end. Your dog will most likely be anesthetized during the procedure. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is sometimes performed to measure the electrical and muscular performance of the heart. Imaging done with x-ray, CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound may also be necessary.
Treatment of Yucca Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment will depend on how much your dog ate and what symptoms he is showing. Early decontamination can help reduce the symptoms, so the veterinarian will induce vomiting with a hydrogen peroxide medication. Also, activated charcoal is recommended if it has been less than three hours since ingestion. Depending on the electrolyte levels and PCV results, they will probably need to give your dog IV fluids. This helps flush the toxins from your dog’s body as well as rehydrates the system. Gastric lavage can be done to further empty the stomach of any toxins left in your dog’s system. Other supportive therapy may be administered depending on your dog’s needs.
Recovery of Yucca Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is treated within the first 18 hours and there have been no renal system symptoms, the prognosis is good. If you have any questions or concerns about your dog's recovery, call your veterinarian. To prevent this from happening again, it is best to remove any yucca plants you may have inside and outside your home. Planting canine-appealing grasses in a safe area of your yard may encourage your pet to leave other potentially harmful plants alone.
Yucca Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Our dog has injested adead yucca plant stem. It had been about 24 hours and vomiting started about 3 hours ago and has since ceased.
Does a dead plant do as much damage as a live plant? Should my dog be seen by a vet?
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