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To recap, in the previous five columns we have listed many plants that contain toxins that could be injurious to your dog, cat or horse. Because of their size and propensity to chew almost anything kittens and puppies are at higher risk. Now I want to cover plants not previously classified.

The Umbrella Leaf also known as the Indian Apple Root, American Mandrake, Wild Lemon, Hog Apple, Duck’s Foot, Raccoon berry and American Mandrake accumulates the toxin podophylin. Ingestion can result in gastroenteritis, lethargy, respiratory distress and in rare instances coma. Contact with the skin can cause inflammation and skin ulcers. Iris (Snake Lily, Water Flag or Flag) contains three pentacyclic terpenoids known as zeorin, missourin and missouriensin. Highest concentrations of these toxins are in the rhizomes. Ingestion results in irritation of the oral mucous membranes and gastroenteritis. The Chinaberry Tree (Bead Tree, China Ball Tree, Paradise Tree, Persian Lilac, White Cedar, Japanese Bead Tree, Texas Umbrella Tree, Pride-of-India) accumulates tetranortriterpenes (meliatoxins) in the bark, leaves and flowers but the ripe berries are the most toxic. Ingestion can result in diarrhea, vomiting (not in horses), hyper-salivation, depression, weakness, and in rare cases seizures.

The American Mistletoe, Phoradendron flavescens, contains lectins and phoratoxins that can cause gastroenteritis, cardiovascular collapse, respiratory distress, and erratic behavior. It is hallucinogenic in humans, but do not be tempted, the GI and other effects predominate and are far from pleasant. Ingesting the young sprouts, seeds, bark or pruned twigs of the Locust tree causes significant gastroenteritis, anorexia (loss of appetite), depression, stupor, generalized weakness with rear end paralysis, cold extremities, dilated pupils, dyspnea (difficult breathing), a weak and irregular pulse, and bloody diarrhea. Horses that recover from eating this plant can develop chronic laminitis. The toxic principles of the Locust tree are toxalbumins.

The Peony contains the toxin paeonol and can cause gastroenteritis in horses, dogs and cats. The Gardenia (Cape Jasmine) contains genioposide and gardenoside, also resulting in gastro-intestinal upset. Baby’s Breath (Maidens Breath) contains gyposenin yet another cause of gastroenteritis. More gastroenteritis results from many cultivars of Geranium (containing geraniol, linalool). Garlic plants (Stinking Rose, Rustic Treacle, Camphor of the Poor, Nectar of the Gods, Serpent Garlic, Rocambole) contain N-propyl disulfide and toxic doses can cause gastroenteritis and a breakdown of red blood cells resulting in hemolytic anemia, Heinz body anemia, blood in the urine, generalized weakness, abnormally high heart rates and dyspnea.  The

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia, Indian Pink) contains lobeline and ingestion can result in depression gastroenteritis, abdominal pain and abnormal cardiac rhythms. Tulips contain Tulipalin A & B with highest concentrations in the bulbs. Ingestion causes gastroenteritis, depression, and hyper-salivation. The Sweet Pea (Perennial Pea, Everlasting Pea) accumulates aminoproprionitrite and ingestion can cause weakness, lethargy, pacing, head pressing, tremors, seizures and death. Ingestion of sufficient quantities of the Buckwheat plant, containing fagopyrin, can result in photosensitization and ulcerative and exudative dermatitis.

Several plants in which the toxic principle has not yet been identified, can cause mild to severe gastroenteritis. These include; Dahlias (many varieties), Chinese Jade (Silver Jade, Silver Dollar), Buddhist Pine (Yew Pine, Japanese Yew, Southern Yew, Podocarpus), Norfolk Pine (Australian Pine, House Pine, Island Pine), Horseweed (Showy Daisy, Fleabane, Seaside Daisy) and Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon, Rose of China).

Several varieties of Lily (Rubrum Lily, Asian Lily, many varieties of Day Lily and Easter Lily appear to be toxic only to cats. The toxic principle is unknown but ingestion can result in gastroenteritis, lethargy, kidney failure and death.

Gold Dust Dracaena (Florida Beauty), the Red-Marginated Dracaena (Straight-Marginated Dracaena) and the Striped Dracaena (Warneckii, Janet Craig Plant) all contain an unknown toxin that causes gastroenteritis, depression, incoordination and weakness in both dogs and cats but dilated pupils, abdominal pain, and tachycardia (increased heart rate) only in cats. The Madagascar Dragon Tree is also only toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion of this plant causes gastroenteritis, depression and in cats dilated pupils.

One last time, if you think your animal has ingested, or been in contact with, any of these hundreds of plants that contain toxic substances and is showing any of the described signs get the animal to your veterinarian. Only a few of the plants are toxic enough to be fatal but even the mild toxicants can cause unwarranted distress that should be relieved.

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Plants that contain glycosides can be very harmful to pets. If your pet ingests any of the plants mentioned in these columns and is showing signs of illness, get him/her to your veterinarian post haste.

The most well known and classic of the cardiac glycoside plants is foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. We have known about the medicinal properties of this plant for centuries. Teas made from the plant were used as a diuretic and to slow the heart and the active ingredient digitalis is still an important drug used to treat heart failure. If ingested in large quantities, the plant can cause cardiac arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea, progressive weakness, cardiac failure and death.

The Oleander (Rose-Bay) also contains cardiac glycosides. When I practiced in Phoenix, AZ many backyards had Oleander bushes as hedges and I treated several horses for Oleander poisoning. Well-intentioned owners had mowed the lawn too close to the bushes mixing clippings from the Oleanders in with the grass clippings and fed everything to the horse (feeding grass clippings to horses is not a good idea under any circumstances). The Mock Azalea (Desert Rose, Desert Azalea, Sabi Star, Impala Lily, Kudu Lily) also contains cardiac glycosides.

Bufadienolides, another form of cardiac glycosides, are found in the Christmas Rose (Hellebore, Lenten Rose, Easter Rose) and the Mother-in-Law-Plant (Mother of Millions, Kalanchoe, Devils Backbone, Chandelier Plant). These plants are less toxic than those mentioned in the previous paragraph. Clinical signs include hypersalivation, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and, rarely, abnormal heart rhythm.

Cyanogenic glycosides (cyanide) are found in the stems, leaves and pits of Rosaceae plants. These include Apricots, Plums, Peaches, Cherries and cyanide is particularly high when the plants are in the process of wilting. Clinical signs include; brick red mucous membranes, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, panting, shock and death. The Hortensia (Hydrangea, Hills of Snow, Seven Bark) plant and the Heavenly Bamboo (Sacred Bamboo, Nandina) also contain cyanogenic glycosides but rarely produce anything more than gastroenteritis if ingested.

The Common Privet (Privet, Amur, Wax-leaf) contains terpenoid glycosides that can result in gastroenteritis, incoordination and abnormally high heart rates but ingestion of this plant is rarely fatal. Clematis (Virgin’s Bower, Leatherflower) contains the irritant glycoside protoanemonin but ingestion only causes mild salivation, vomiting and diarrhea.

Various species of Milkweed (Ascieplas species) contain steroidal glycosidic cardenolides and are cardiotoxic, other species contain neurotoxins. Clinical signs following ingestions include vomiting, profound depression, weakness, anorexia (loss of appetite) and diarrhea. If large quantities are ingested these signs may be followed by seizures, dyspnea (difficult breathing) weak and rapid pulse, dilated pupils, kidney and/or liver failure, coma, respiratory paralysis and irreversible death.

Plants that contain volatile oils can cause contact dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and allergic reactions. Long term exposure can lead to bleeding tendencies. Chamomile (Manzanilla, Garden Chamomile, Roman Chamomile, True Chamomile, Corn Feverfew, Barnyard Daisy, Ground-Apple, Turkey-Weed) and Mayweed (Poison Daisy, Stinking Chamomile) contain the volatile oils; bisabolol and chamazulene as well as anthemic and tannic acids. The American Yew contains Taxine A & B and volatile oil. Ingestion of this plant can result in tremors, dyspnea, vomiting and sudden death from acute heart failure. Dogs poisoned by Yew are reported to have seizures.

Ricin is one of the most deadly toxins we know of. The Mole Bean Plant, Ricinus communis, is native to the tropics but is grown in North America as an ornamental or as a crop for castor oil. It is also known as the Castor Bean Plant, African Wonder Tree or the Castor Bean. Ricin inhibits protein synthesis and ingestion of as little as one ounce of the seeds of this plant can be lethal. Clinical signs usually develop 12 to 48 hours after ingestion of any portion of the plant and start with anorexia, excessive thirst, followed by weakness, abdominal pain, trembling, incoordination, dyspnea, progressive central nervous system depression and fever. As the toxicity progresses the animal can have bloody diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death.

The Cardboard Palm (Cycads and Zamias) contain Cycasin, related to ricin. Ingestion can result in vomiting, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, coagulapathies resulting in bruising and other bleeding, liver damage followed by liver failure characterized by yellowing of the mucous membranes (icterus) and death. The Indian Rubber Plant (Fig, Weeping Fig) contains the proteolytic enzyme ficin and psoralen (ficusin) also related to ricin but mild toxicants. Skin contact can result in dermatitis while ingestion can cause oral irritation, excessive salivation and vomiting.

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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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In my last column, I discussed plants that contained calcium oxalates. This time I will cover plants with various saponins as the toxic component. Again, most animals will avoid these plants, but some hard heads can’t resist.

Animals that ingest the fruits of these plants, usually berries, will demonstrate signs of gastric upset, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some animals may rub against these plants and will develop, with repeated skin exposure, an allergic dermatitis.

As always, if you believe your pet interacted with one of these plants please take it to your veterinarian and explain the circumstances.

Plants from the Asparagus family contain sapogenins. Included in this family are Asparagus, Asparagus Fern, Emerald Feather, Emerald Fern, Plumosa Fern, Lace Fern, Racemose, and Shatavari.

Various Holly plants contain saponins including; the American Holly, the English Holly, the European Holly, Oregon Holly, Inkberry, Winterberry and Spanish Thyme. Both the leaves and berries of these plants are toxic and ingestion can result in gastric upset.

Aloe (Aloe vera) plants contain saponins and ingestion can result in gastric upset, anorexia (loss of appetite), tremors and, at times, a change in urine color. Ingestion of the Baby Doll Ti Plant, also known as the Ti-Plant, Good-Luck Plant and Hawaiian Ti Plant, can result in vomiting, sometimes containing blood, depression, anorexia, hypersalivation and, in cats, dilated pupils. Ingestion of  Buckeyes or Horse Chestnuts can result in severe vomiting and diarrhea, either depression or excitement, dilated pupils and, in severe cases, wobbly gait, convulsions and even coma. Cyclamen (Sowbread) contains terpenoid saponins and eating this plant will result in gastric upset. Ingestion of large quantities of the tubers of this plant can result in abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death.

The foliage of the English Ivy (Branching Ivy, Glacier Ivy, Needlepoint Ivy, Sweetheart Ivy, California Ivy) is more toxic than the berries. Ingestion of the leaves will result in gastric upset. The toxic substance in these plants are triterpenoid saponins.

Dracaena, also known as Corn Plant, Cornstalk Plant, Dragon Tree and Ribbon Plant, are toxic when ingested. Ingestion can result in gastric upset severe enough to have blood in the vomitus. Contact with the Coffee Tree (Wild Coffee, Geranium-Leaf Aralia) can result in dermatitis, ingestion with gastric upset and depression. If your dog or cat ingests portions of the Yucca it may develop gastric upset. Interestingly grazing animals, horses, cattle, sheep can develop liver disease and secondary photosensitivity if they eat enough of the Yucca. Unless severe drought conditions exist, grazers will avoid these plants.  The Hosta (Plantain Lily, Funkia) is included in those plants with saponins and ingestion can result in gastric upset.

The specific toxic substance in the Bird of Paradise  (Peacock Flower, Barbados Pride, Poinciana, Pride of Barbados, Dwarf Poinciana) has not been identified but ingestion of this plant can result in intense oral irritation resulting in hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing and, in severe cases, incoordination. Rabbits eating this plant have died. The Buttercup (Butter Cress, Figwort) contains the irritant protoanemonin and ingestion can result in gastric upset and a wobbly gait. The many varieties of Chrysanthemums can contain sesquiterpene, lactones, pyrethrins and other irritants and can result in gastric upset. Pinks (Carnations, Wild Carnation, Sweet William) contain an unknown irritant that can cause mild gastric upset.

Two plants, the Poinsettia and the Pencil Cactus are often identified as toxic. The Poinsettia is especially bad-mouthed around Christmas time, but the toxicity of these plants is generally over-rated, their sap is a mild irritant.

The truly dangerous plant, a favorite of mystery writers, is the Black Nightshade (Nightshade, Deadly Nightshade). This plant, Solanum nigrum, contains saponins but also contains solanine, and atropine-like substances. Ingestion can result in hypersalivation, loss of appetite, severe GI upset, diarrhea, drowsiness, depression of the central nervous system, confusion, behavioral changes, weakness, severely dilated pupils and a very slow heart rate. Your pet would have to ingest a lot of this plant to cause death and because the toxic components are so irritant this usually will not happen.

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