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Oleander

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Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs, Horses, Cows, Birds

Level of toxicity: Generally moderate to severe

Common signs to watch for:

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Death

Oleander is an outdoor shrub, popular for its evergreen qualities and delicate flowers. Found commonly in warm locations (e.g., along highways in Hawaii, California, Texas, etc.), all parts of this plant are poisonous to multiple species (e.g., dogs, cats, humans, horses, cattle, etc.). Oleander contains 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., 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: Nerium oleander

Alternate names: Nerium oleander, white oleander, cardiac glycosides