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Oleander Poisoning in Dogs

Oleander is toxic to dogs.

Oleander is toxic when eaten by dogs. In fact, common oleander (Cerium oleander), which is a popular landscaping plant in warm climate areas of the United States, is severely toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

How Is Oleander Poisonous to Dogs?

Oleander contains compounds that act as cardiac glycosides. These are toxins that affect a dog's heart by interrupting the electrolyte balance there. The result is life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances.

All parts of the oleander plant, including flowers, leaves, fruit, stems, and roots, contain cardiac glycosides and are poisonous if ingested by a dog.

Signs of Oleander Toxicity in Dogs

Dogs that eat oleander may show some or all of the following signs within 30 minutes:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Pupil dilation
  • Listlessness
  • Weakness
  • Wobbliness
  • Tremors
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (atrial or ventricular fibrillation)

Diagnosis of Canine Oleander Poisoning

There are blood tests that can confirm the presence of oleander's toxins in a dog's bloodstream, but it takes too long to get the results when a dog has been poisoned. Usually, a diagnosis is made on suspicion based on history and clinical signs.

A dog's blood potassium levels are usually high during oleander poisoning, which can help confirm a veterinarian's suspicions.

How Is Oleander Toxicity in Dogs Treated?

Vomiting is usually induced if a dog has eaten oleander and hasn't already vomited on his own. Activated charcoal is then given, which can help bind remaining oleander and move it through the dog's system with less absorption.

Dogs with oleander toxicity are hospitalized, placed on intravenous fluids, and given medications as needed. Electrolyte levels and heart rate are monitored.

There is an antidote to oleander poison, Digibind, but it's expensive and not widely available.

Dogs with oleander toxicity have a good prognosis if it is caught early and treated aggressively, but the longer the toxins have to affect the heart, the worse the long-term prognosis is because long-term heart damage is done.

Prevention of Oleander Poisoning in Dogs

It's important to be aware of plants that are toxic to dogs and keep them out of your yard. Keeping your dog on a leash when you are out and about is also important.

Learn more about other dangers for dogs outside here: "Garden Threats for Dogs."

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