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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish Thyme’

The deadly Sago Palm (Coontie Palm, Cardboard Palm, Cycads and Zamias) is extremely poisonous to animals and humans if ingested. Dogs and Cats are particularly at risk since they seem to find the plant very palatable. Clinical signs usually develop within twelve hours of ingesting the plant and may include signs of gastroenteritis, generalized weakness, seizures and hepatotoxicity (liver damage) characterized by icterus (yellow color of the mucous membranes and sclera of the eyes), and ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen). Pets may appear bruised, have nose bleeds, bloody stools with bloody discharges from the anus in the absence of fecal matter. The Animal Poison Control Center of the ASPCA says fatality rates can be between fifty and seventy-five percent from ingestion of this plant. Over the past five years, the incidence of reported pet poisonings from the Sago has increased markedly. All parts of the plant are toxic but the seeds contain the highest concentrations of ceasing, the major toxin and responsible for the gastrointestinal damage, but these plants also contain Beta-methyl amino L-alanine, a neurotoxin, and an unidentified toxin observed to cause hindlimb paralysis in cattle.
It is particularly important to get your animal to a veterinarian immediately if you suspect it has ingested any portion of the Sago Palm, but veterinary care is highly recommended following exposure to any of the plants mentioned in this series.

There are about two hundred and fifty different species of plants in the Ericaceous family including; Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Rosebays. Others include; Andromeda Japonica (Lily-of-the Valley Bush) Black Laurel (Dog Hobble, Dog Laurel, Fetter Bush, Sierra Laurel, Staggerbush and Male berry). Depending upon the time of year and the specific plant, ingestion of only a few leaves can cause problems. Horses and cattle will usually not eat these plants, unless nothing else is available, but sheep and goats seem more inclined. The Grayanotoxins found in these plants interfere with normal skeletal and cardiac muscle function as well as normal nerve function. Clinical signs can appear within a few hours following ingestion and in usually include gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), hyper salivation (drooling), anorexia (loss of appetite), diarrhea, abdominal pain, depression, and weakness. These signs progress to loss of coordination, stupor, leg paralysis, weak heart rate and the animals can become recumbent for two days or more. If untreated the animals may become comatose and die.

My wife and I have had Coleus, also known as Indian Borage, Bread and Butter Plant, Spanish Thyme, East Indian Thyme, Stinging Thyme, Country Borage, Winterberry and many other common names, growing in our home for years. This plant contains essential oils and ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, either can occasionally be bloody, anorexia and the potential for photosensitivity. Many cultivars of Eucalyptus also contain essential oils (eucalyptol) and can cause irritation of the mucous membranes resulting in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea followed by depression and weakness. The Bergamot Orange (Bergamot, Citrus Bergama) contains essential oils and psoralens and ingestion can cause gastroenteritis and photosensitivity (sensitivity to sunlight).

Cow Parsnip (Giant Hogweed) contains Furanocoumarins causing photosensitization resulting in an ulcerative (ulcers) and exudative (pus) dermatitis as well as eye problems. Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, Kiss-Me-Quick, Lady-of-the-Night, Franciscan Rain Tree, where do they get these names?) contain the toxic principle Brunfelsamidine which can cause gastroenteritis, coughing lethargy, in coordination, tremors and seizures with signs lasting for days.

Cowbane, also known as Water Hemlock and Poison Parsnip contains Cicutoxin. Ingestion can cause gastroenteritis, fever, extreme abdominal pain, tremors, dilated pupils, respiratory depression and death. Angelica Tree (Hercules Club, Devil’s Walking Stick, Prickly Ash, Prickly Elder) accumulate Aralin. Horses, dogs and cats can develop skin and oral irritation, hyper salivation, and gastroenteritis following exposure to this plant.

Solanaceae plants include the Tomato, European Bittersweet (Climbing Nightshade, Deadly Nightshade) and the Ornamental Pepper (Natal Cherry, Winter Cherry, Jerusalem Cherry). Ingestion can result in gastroenteritis with possible GI ulceration, seizures, depression, respiratory depression, hypotension (low blood pressure), shock, weakness, and dilated pupils. Another toxic plant in the Solanaceae family is Nicotiana (Tree Tobacco, Tobacco, Mustard Tree). This plant contains nicotine and ingestion can result in hyper-excitability followed by depression, gastroenteritis, in coordination, paralysis and death.

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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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