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The story continues. Just a reminder, the toxicity of any substance is dependent upon the dose, the greater exposure the greater the toxicity. If you suspect your pet has ingested any of these plants get him or her to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Plants belonging to the family Amaryllidaceae, the Kaffir Lily (Clivia Lily, Clivies, Caffre Lily, Cape Clivia, Kilvia), Daffodils (Narcissus, Jonquil, Paper White) the Barbados Lily (Amaryllis, Fire Lily, Lily of the Palace, Ridderstjerne) and the Hyacinth (Garden Hyacinth) all contain lycorine and other alkaloids. Ingestion of these plants results in gastric distress with hyper salivation (drooling), vomiting and diarrhea. Ingestion of large quantities of the plant, particularly of the bulbs, can cause convulsions, low blood pressure (hypotension) tremors and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).

The Autumn Crocus (Meadow Saffron) contains colchicines and other alkaloids. Ingestion of this plant can result in irritation of the oral mucous membranes (everything in the mouth and throat) bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage and bone marrow suppression. This one is nasty!

The Yarrow plant (Milfoil) contains glycoalkaloids, monoterpenes and sesquiterpene lactones, all alkaloids and all toxic. Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, loss of appetite (anorexia) and drooling. The Morning Glory contains at least four different indole alkaloids. After eating this plant your pet can show signs of GI upset, agitation, tremors, disorientation, ataxia (trouble with balance while moving) anorexia. The seeds of Yarrow can cause hallucinations.

The Burning Bush (Wahoo, Spindle Tree) contains both alkaloids and cardenolides. Ingestion can result in GI distress, abdominal pain and weakness. Large doses can result in cardiac (heart) arrhythmias. Bittersweet (Limbing Bittersweet, Waxwork, Shrubby Bittersweet, False Bittersweet, Climbing Bittersweet and American Bittersweet) contains euonymin and sesquiterpene alkaloids. Ingestion of Bittersweet can result in weakness, convulsions and severe gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines).

Over eighty species of Larkspur can be found in North America, most west of the Mississippi River, but are cultivated as an ornamental almost everywhere. In nature the dwarf or low Larkspurs live on lowland slopes and grasslands and are generally less than three feet tall. Tall Larkspurs can grow to four to six feet and are usually found on upper slopes of mountain locations. These plants contain diterpene alkaloids and are more toxic to horses than other species. However horses will no usually consume these plants unless drought conditions exist and there is little else to eat. Dogs and cats have been poisoned from these plants but it is a rare occurrence. As the plant matures it is usually less toxic. Ingestion can result in neuromuscular paralysis along with gastroenteritis, muscle tremors, stiffness, weakness, and convulsions. Animals can die from either cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Ragwort (Golden Ragwort) contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. It is not palatable but again can be a problem for animals that graze during drought conditions. Dogs and cats will usually not bother this plant, but there are some strange pets out there and poisonings have been reported. Ingestion causes liver failure, and many neurological problems associated with liver failure.

Periwinkle (Running Myrtle, Vinca) contain vinca alkaloids. Ingestion of this plant results in gastroenteritis and depression with moderate intake, tremors, seizures, coma and death if large quantities are consumed. The Lobelia (Cardinal Flower, Indian Pink) contains the alkaloid lobeline. Animals that ingest this plant can develop gastroenteritis, depression and abdominal pain. Large quantities can result in cardiac arrhythmias.

Ambrosia Mexicana (Jerusalem Oak, Feather Geranium) and Bittersweet (American Bittersweet, Waxwork, Shrubby Bittersweet, False Bittersweet, Climbing Bittersweet) may contain euonymin and sesquiterpene alkaloids. Animals ingesting these plants can show signs of gastroenteritis, depression, weakness and convulsions.

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I found my kitten chewing on a houseplant, is this dangerous?

Maybe, the most important aspect of potential poisoning, from any source, is dose. How much was the animal exposed to per pound of body weight? Kittens and puppies will chew on almost anything. Mainly because of their size, young animals are more susceptible to toxic substances. Fortunately, most animals, especially dogs and cats, after a small taste, will avoid eating most dangerous plants. However, we animal lovers know that some dogs will eat anything and even some cats are less than discerning.

Many plants contain toxic substances. On their website, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center lists well over 300 potentially toxic plants. I was very surprised to find the names of plants that I recognized and didn’t know were potentially dangerous, others I knew to advise animal owners to avoid.

There are so many potentially poisonous plants I cannot possibly mention all of them in one column, so I have decided to do a series. First, let’s talk about those plants that contain insoluble calcium oxalates. Most of the plants that accumulate calcium oxalate accumulate the insoluble form of the compound. Ingestion of these plants results in irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth, tongue and lips accompanied by an intense burning sensation. Animals afflicted usually drool excessively and may vomit and have difficulty swallowing.

Most of the Philodendrons accumulate these oxalate crystals including; the Saddle Leaf Philodendron, also known as Horsehead, Cordatum, Heartleaf, Panda Plant, Split Leaf, Fruit Salad Plant, Red Emerald, Red Princess and Fiddle Leaf and the Cut leaf Philodendron also called the Hurricane Plant, Swiss Cheese Plant, Ceriman, Mexican Breadfruit and Window Leaf Plant.

Various Dieffenbachia, contain insoluble calcium oxalates. These include; the Charming Dieffenbachia, Dumb Cane, Giant Dumb Cane, Spotted Dumb Cane, Tropic Snow, Exotica, Exotica Perfection, and the Gold Dieffenbachia.

Many of us have Schefflera growing in our homes. My wife has been nurturing one, and it’s offspring, for more than thirty years. The Schefflera (Umbrella Tree, Australian Ivy Palm), the Octopus Tree and the Star Leaf all contain insoluble calcium oxalates.

A host of plants, all classified in the Araceae family, harbor these substances. These include; the Flamingo flower also known as; Devil’s Ivy, Pothos, Golden Pothos, Taro Vine, Ivy Arum, Marble Queen. Other Araceae are the Caladium, also known as; Elephant Ears, Malanga, Stoplight, Seagull, Mother-in-law Plant, Pink Cloud, Texas Wonder, Angel-Wings, Exposition, Candidum, Fancy-leaved Caladium, and Alocasia. The Flamingo Lily (Tail Flower, Oilcloth Flower, Pigtail Plant, Painter’s Pallet) and various species of Calla including; Calla Lily, Pig Lily, White Arum, Trumpet Lily, Arum Lily, Garden Calla, Black Calla, Solomon’s Lily, Wild Calla, Wild Arum, and the Mauna Loa Peace Lily. This family also includes the Nephthytis (Arrow-Head Vine, Green Gold Nephthytis, African Evergreen and Trileaf Wonder). Arums including; Lord-and-Ladies, Wake Robin, Starch Root, Bobbins and Cuckoo Plant accumulate oxalates.

On some of our area hikes, my now ten-year old granddaughter has shown me Skunk Cabbage (also known as Skunk Weed, Polecat Weed, Meadow Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage). The Chinese Evergreen has insoluble oxalate crystals as do the Greater Ammi (Bishop’s Weed, False Queen Anne’s Lace). Finally, there are over a thousand species and ten thousand hybrid Begonias that can accumulate these crystals, ouch!

It doesn’t end there. Some plants contain soluble rather than insoluble calcium oxalates. Ingestion of these plants can result in excessive salivation, tremors and even kidney failure. Plants with the soluble calcium oxalates found in their leaves include; Rhubarb (Pie Plant), Sorrel (Dock) and Moss Rose (Wild Portulaca, Rock Moss, Purslane, Pigweed, Pusley). Don’t let your pet munch on the leaves of these plants.

If you believe your pet has been grazing on any of the plants described please take the animal to your veterinarian and bring along a sample of the plant for identification.

I’m far from done. In follow-up columns, I will let you know about plants that contain saponins, alkaloids, glycosides, volatile oils, deadly ricin, and at least thirty other toxic substances. It’s a scary world we live in and it’s not just the politicians.

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There is some evidence that Polybrominate Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) may be involved in hyperthyroidism in cats. Feline hyperthyroidism may be the most common endocrine disorder in cats. It is associated with benign tumor(s) of the thyroid gland and usually appears in middle-aged to older cats, without preference to breed or gender. The signs of hyperthyroidism are weight loss, hyperactivity accompanied by a voracious appetite. Cats can also demonstrate increased water intake, more frequent urination, along with intermittent vomiting and/or diarrhea. Cats with severe hyperthyroidism suffer from increased heart rates, arrhythmias (irregular beats) and congestive heart failure. About 10% of cats with hyperthyroidism develop a condition known as apathetic hyperthyroidism. These animals show depression and lack of appetite with fast weight loss.

The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is by measuring increased circulating levels of the two thyroid hormones. Your veterinarian can verify the diagnosis by the use of special thyroid imaging called planar thyroid scintigraphy. Hyperthyroidism can be treated successfully with anti-thyroid drugs, surgery or the administration of radioactive iodine, the latter is currently the most commonly employed and probably the most successful.

There are three different types of PBDE compounds commonly used as flame retardants. They can migrate out of the flame retardant products then accumulate in indoor air and house dust and eventually contaminate the environment. Since the PBSEs do not break down quickly in the environment they accumulate in air, soils, sediments, fish, marine mammals, birds and other wildlife and well as in meat, poultry and dairy products. We should expect a decrease in these contaminants in this country since two of the most commonly used types were discontinued in 2004 and the third will be phased out in 2013. However, exposure from existing building materials, furnishings and consumer products, especially those imported from countries still using these products will continue.

A paper recently published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health suggested a link between PBDEs and hyperthyroidism. The researchers studied 21 normal cats, 41 cats diagnosed as hyperthyroid and 10 normal feral cats with no exposure to household dust. Although the total PBDE concentrations in the serum of normal and hyperthyroid cats were not significantly different, the total PBDE in dust from homes of hyperthyroid cats was significantly higher than the dust from homes of normal cats. The levels of PBDE in dust and one of the thyroid hormones (T4) were significantly correlated. Although this study does not prove a cause and effect between PBDE levels in household dust and hyperthyroidism in cats it is another indication that household pets could serve as sentinels for environmental toxicants that could affect humans. A major problem with most toxicology studies is that the effects of low levels of toxicants, over long periods of time, are too expensive to conduct and therefore are almost never done.

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