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The Animal Poison Control Center is spreading the word about five plants that can make pets sick.
Lilies, azaleas, oleanders, sago palms and castor beans all have the potential to cause life threatening problems in cats, dogs and other animals, according to data compiled by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Animal Poison Control Center (Urbana, IL.)
from January 2001 to December 2003. "We typically recommend that pets
not be allowed to eat plants in general," said Dr. Safdar Khan, veterinary toxicologist for the center. "However, it is especially critical that these plants be kept out of the reach of animals, as they have the potential to cause serious, even fatal systemic effects when ingested."
The highest number of plant related calls to the Animal Poison Control Center involve lilies, which are highly toxic to cats. Both Lilium and Hemerocallis species are commonly found in gardens and bouquets at various times of the year throughout the country. While their poisonous component has not been identified, even a small amount of these lilies can result in severe kidney damage.
Indigenous to the wooded and mountainous regions of the Eastern and Western United States, and used in landscaping and as an ornamental plant, azaleas contain grayanotoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in dogs, cats and other animals.
Although it is native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia, the oleander is frequendy used as an ornamental plant in the United States. All parts of the plant are toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that can cause gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal cardiac function, hypothermia and even death.
While the entire sago palm is toxic, its seeds, or "nuts," contain the highest concentration of toxins. Ingesting only one or two seeds can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure. This popular ornamental plant is native to subtropical climates, such as the Southern United States.
As with the sago palm, the seeds of the castor bean are most toxic, and are particularly dangerous if chewed or crushed. The leaves, stem and other parts of the plant are toxic, as well. In this plant, the poison is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. In severe cases, the animal may show signs of dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death. Castor bean is indigenous to the tropical regions of Africa and the West Indies, but has become part of the natural foliage of the Southern United States and is used in many American gardens.
According to Kahn, owner awareness is key in preventing accidental plant poisonings. Owners who suspect that their pet has consumed one of these or any other potentially toxic plant should immediately call their local veterinarian or the center, at 888-426-4435, for help.
When an overly curious pet gets into something it shouldn't, the experts at Kansas State University (Manhattan) are just a phone call away.
The university's College of Veterinary Medicine operates a free, 24-hour-a-day animal poison control hotline that puts veterinarians and worried pet owners in touch with a veterinary toxicologist. The service is staffed by on call veterinarians who maintain regular practices in addition to their teaching and research duties.
Dr. Fred Oehme, a veterinarian and professor of toxicology and pathobiology, oversees the hotline. He offers a few tips to people who call the hotline
Act fast. If you call five to 10 minutes after the pet has ingested a questionable substance, the veterinarian may direct you to induce vomiting to minimize harm. If you wait a few hours to see how the animal reacts, it may be too late.
Be patient. The person who answers the phone may have to page the veterinarian on call. This may take a few minutes, especially at night.
Have product labels handy. Be prepared to tell the vet what the animal ingested. If it was a medication, provide the generic name of the drug and how many milligrams were in each tablet. You'll also need to tell the vet the pet's weight.
Know if the pet is actually in trouble. Unusual drooling, unexplained vomiting, frothing at the mouth, redness or burns in the mouth, difficulty breathing, unusual behavior, convulsions or unconsciousness may indicate that the pet is in trouble.
To speak with KSU animal poison control experts, call (785) 532-5679.