DAY 11: CyclamenI suspect this is a pet toxicity that many of you were unaware of. In fact, I suspect many of you have never even heard of a cyclamen before – right? However, you've likely seen them around and may have even had them on your holiday table – these plants are common in supermarket floral departments and home & garden centers.
Although not nearly as popular as the poinsettia around the holidays, the cyclamen is often found in homes this time of year. And not many people know about the dangers of the cyclamen.
Cyclamens pose a much greater risk to your pets than poinsettiasThe toxins of the cyclamen can cause a wide range of problems for the pets that ingest them, ranging from excessive salivation and digestive upset to seizures and heart rhythm abnormalities. In small ingestions, most pets will suffer only mild digestive upset. However, in cases of large ingestion, this toxicity can prove fatal.
The greatest concentration of the toxins is contained in the tubers of the plant. These are basically the 'lunch box' or 'food pantry' for the plant, acting as a storage place for energy and nutrients. Fortunately for most pets, the tubers of the cyclamen are located beneath the soil. So for those pets that only nibble on a leaf or two, their clinical signs are likely to only be mild in nature. However, for those mischievous and destructive enough to dig up the roots and tubers, the end result can be far more significant.
Seeing as how they are readily available at supermarkets and garden stores (and rather inexpensive), cyclamen can be a common holiday decoration or hostess/host gift. Now that you’re aware of them and know what they look like, I suspect you'll start noticing them everywhere - especially this time of year.
What to look out for and do if your pet ingests part of the cyclamen plant
Since the signs your pet will exhibit and the effect that the cyclamen will have is dependent on the amount of the plant your pet eats, with the quantity of tubers eaten being most important, the steps you should take in the event of ingestion will vary, too.
If your pet has eaten just a small amount of the plant (such as a nibble on a petal or two) you are likely only to see drooling and possibly a decreased interest in food. In these cases, no specific medical treatment is typically necessary. However, if your pet progresses to have additional signs, or if they remain off their food for longer than two meals, or if you are otherwise concerned, then make a call to animal poison control or make a trip to the veterinarian.
When the degree of exposure is greater, additional signs of vomiting and diarrhea are more likely to be seen. In these cases the course of action necessary depends both on how severe the vomiting and diarrhea are and how long they last. In cases of short-lived and mild vomiting and diarrhea, it is sometimes possible to 'wait it out' at home (*see disclaimer below) by withholding food and water for 12-24 hours and then very slowly reintroducing first water and then small amounts of a highly-digestible & low-fat diet (see below for suggestions).
Such a 'bland diet' typically consists of boiled chicken and boiled white rice - no skin, no seasonings, and no bones. You can often substitute the boiled chicken for boiled turkey, boiled lean ground beef, or cottage cheese if desired. If your pet refuses to eat, or if the vomiting and diarrhea continues, they must be brought for veterinary evaluation and treatment to correct/prevent dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities that can prolong their condition and worsen their prognosis. Earlier veterinary intervention will typically shorten the course of their digestive upset, and it will often decrease the overall costs for you as well.
In cases of larger ingestion, when vomiting and diarrhea are likely to be of greater severity and your pet is more likely to suffer the neurologic and/or cardiac effects of the toxin, immediate veterinary evaluation and care should be obtained. Especially when neurologic or cardiac effects are present – weakness, collapse, shortness of breath, ataxia ('drunk walking'), or seizures – their chances for survival and full recovery are improved by rapid and appropriate treatment. There is no safe or effective at-home remedy for the neurologic or cardiac effects of cyclamen toxicity, so in these cases your pet must be brought immediately to the veterinarian for care.
* Disclaimer: Because each pet's situation may be different, because of any pre-existing medical conditions or certain medications or supplements they may be on, the safest thing to do in any event of cyclamen ingestion is to call the folks at one of the animal-specific poison control centers. Both the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and the Pet Poison Helpline are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (even on holidays). Though there is a negligible fee for using their service, the peace of mind and expert individualized advice you will receive for your pet can be truly priceless - a quick call to either of these two fabulous resources may save you and your pet a trip to the Animal ER, it’ll definitely put your mind at ease, and it may even save your pet's life, too.
Keep these plants well out of your pet's reach (and mouth)
If you have them in your home, be sure they are in places where your pets truly cannot get to them. Since it's primarily the tubers that are problematic to pets, and those tubers are under the soil, hanging these plants from the ceiling or keeping them up on elevated shelves is often safe enough (unless your cat knocks them down).
Cyclamen is Day 11.
Just to be safe check out all the other "naughty" days in the 12 Days of Christmas Pet Hazards series.