The Common Garden Oleander Can Kill Your Pet
If you live in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, or California, where Oleander grows wild and is a popular landscape plant watch off-leash pets carefully.
Many pet owners do not realize how deadly the Oleander plant can be if ingested by humans, dogs, cats, birds, horses, cows, and other animals. The plant only grows in certain regions of the US and is not especially attractive to animals, which is why many people are unaware of the danger it poses.
The common Oleander (Nerium oleander) and the Yellow Oleander (Thevetia peruviana) belong to the dogbane family of plants. The common Oleander is the prevalent species in the US, and is found primarily in warm regions of the south and southwest, California, and Hawaii.
The Oleander is a shrub that grows to a height of 6 to 12 ft. The leaves are narrow, dark green in color with yellowish veins, and grow in pairs or groups of 3. The flowers grow in clusters at the ends of branches, and can be white, pink, salmon or red.
The Oleander is also a fruit-bearing plant. The fruit grows in slender capsules, and the sap is clear and sticky.
Every part of the Oleander plant, including the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, sap and nectar, contains naturally-occurring cardiac glycosides, which are toxins that directly affect the electrolyte balance within the heart muscle.
The roots and stems of the plant contain the highest amount of cardiac glycosides, followed by the leaves and flowers. The most toxic Oleanders are thought to be the plants with Red flowers.
Oleandrin, the toxin, is the most widely recognized of as many as 30 different cardiac glycosides found in oleanders. Oleandrin acts similarly to the human and veterinary drug digoxin, which is used in the treatment of a variety of heart conditions.
A toxic dose of Oleander depends on the part of the plant ingested and the strength of the toxin. There is currently no established single toxic dose that applies to all species.
Ingestion of 0.005% of an animal’s weight in dry plant leaves is generally thought to be lethal to horses and ruminants. This is about 10 to 20 dry leaves for an adult horse. A dose of 0.25 milligram green Vs. dry leaves per kilogram of body weight has been suggested as a lethal dose for dogs.
Oleandrin affects the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal (GI), and neurologic systems. Symptoms typically occur within 30 mins to a few hrs of ingestion.
There are several different blood tests that can confirm the presence of cardiac glycosides in the blood, but unfortunately, they take time to obtain, time the animal may not have.
That’s why diagnosis is often made based on suspicion or knowledge of plant ingestion, the presence of hyperkalemia and heart rate abnormalities.
Traditional treatment involves attempting to induce vomiting in animals who have not already vomited and who have ingested the plant within an hour or so of being brought to a veterinary clinic. This is followed with a dose of activated charcoal and a cathartic, then 2 additional doses of activated charcoal every 6 to 8 hrs.
Patients must be hospitalized, and those with clinical signs should receive careful electrocardiographic monitoring for 24 hrs, along with blood glucose and electrolyte monitoring, and serum chemistry tests. An antidote, Digibind, has been administered to successfully reverse the cardiac effects of oleander toxicosis in severe, life-threatening cases.
If your animal or pets ingest Oleander, as with any case of poisoning, the sooner treatment is provided, the better the outlook for the patient. Because the toxins in Oleanders affect the cardiovascular system, severe heart arrhythmias can complicate recovery.
So, take good care and prevent your pet from ingesting any part of the Oleander plant should be the goal. It is important for owners of small animals, to recognize the shrub and keep pets at a safe distance.
Have a terrific weekend.