Giant milkweed, cardiac glycoside, Asclepias
Toxicity to pets
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.
The content of this page is not veterinary advice. A number of factors (amount of substance ingested, size of the animal, allergies, etc.) determine what is toxic to a particular pet. If you think your pet has eaten something potentially toxic, call Pet Poison Helpline or seek immediate veterinary treatment.