Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs
Level of toxicity: Generally moderate to severe
Common signs to watch for:
- Abnormal heart rate
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Dilated pupils
Several types of plants contain naturally-occurring poisons that affect the heart, specifically cardenolides or bufadienolides. These poisons are called cardiac glycoside toxins, and they interfere directly with electrolyte balance within the heart muscle. The following plants are known to contain glycosides (please see specific plant for more information):
The toxins within these plants are similar to digitalis or digoxin, a common heart medication used in both human and veterinary medicine. The level of poisoning varies with the particular plant, part of the plant, and amount consumed. All parts of the plant are generally considered toxic – even the water in the vase has been reported to cause toxicosis. Clinical signs from ingestion include cardiovascular signs (e.g., abnormal heart rhythm and rate), electrolyte abnormalities (e.g., a life-threatening high potassium level), gastrointestinal signs (e.g., nausea, drooling, vomiting, etc.), or central nervous system signs (e.g., dilated pupils, tremors, seizures). In severe cases, an expensive antidote, digoxin-specific Fab fragments, can be used for severe, life-threatening cases.
Poison type: Plants
Scientific name: Asclepias spp.
Alternate names: Giant milkweed, cardiac glycoside, Asclepias