Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dachshunds and the Dangers of House Plants

Littermates Joey and Maggie share their scary tale of a poisonous houseplant

Your Long and Short of it All hosts love to garden. We love to help Dad when he's outside weeding or planting or raking or watering. We can lay in the sun and relax, or bury our head deep in a fresh bag of organic soil and steal a big mouthful. Yum! There's nothing better than plucking the perfect tomato or cucumber or even rubbing against some fresh spices because they smell so good. But plants can be a danger to dogs, especially when they are brought in the house, or if dogs aren't supervised around them. We are a living testament to this, and this is our story.
Last year Dad grew several containers of succulents in the garden. Similar to cacti in some regards, succulents or fat plants, are water-retaining plants adapted to arid climate or soil conditions. Succulent plants store water in their leaves, stems and/or roots. The storage of water often gives succulent plants a more swollen or fleshy appearance than other plants, also known as succulence. Common succulents are aloe and jade plants. They are unusual and exotic looking plants, and rightly quite beautiful.
Dads succulents grew huge over the course of the season, some over 4 -feet-tall, and rather than let them die off when winter came, he brought all his best specimens in the house in the fall. Thanksgiving and the holidays came and went.
On one cold January day, Joey was in some pain, and was refusing to eat. Joey had a history of back pain, and as a general rule of thumb with dachshunds, if your dog is in pain, look at the back first. So, it was off to the vet. Joey had x-rays and some degradation was seen in his spine. We started meds and 6 - 8 weeks of strict crate rest. He was also quite gassy, and even the vet commented that he was stinking up the room while she was doing his x-rays. With crate rest started, the next day he was outside doing his duty, and he stopped on the sidewalk for a big long stretch. This was strange though, because when he was in back pain a year earlier, he didn't do such a stretch for nearly 2 months. After he had an unusually huge bowel movement and talking with the vet, we decided that he had some GI distress of some sort, and that he was OK, and that he didn't have a back issue. Whew!
Enter February. Suddenly Maggie pounces by, and she's foaming at the mouth. What? White foam all around her mouth, and drool hitting the floor. Off to the vets. "Did she get into anything?" the vet asked? "No, these dogs never get into anything. Ever. They're great dogs." Maggie received some anti-nauseants and some fluids, as she was slightly dehydrated. Then she seemed fine.
Fast forward to Easter Day. Joey vomited. Not just a little pile of vomit, but a 2-foot-wide puddle of fluid on the hardwood floors. Then he did it again. Then again. Drinking a whole bowl full of water and whining by his empty water bowl, and even by the toilet and the shower, he was so thirsty. Then vomiting again. Off to the emergency vet. "Did he get into anything" the vet asked? "No, these dogs never get into anything. Ever. They're great dogs." Joey was so dehydrated that he had to spend the night at the emergency vets getting fluids, IV antibiotics, and anti-nauseants. He was able to come home 1.5 days later.
At this point, our Dad is wondering what he is doing wrong. We've been basically perfectly healthy for 7 years, no GI issues ever. We've been fed raw meat and bones our whole lives, since we were 10 weeks old, are our bodies changing or something, maybe we can't handle raw food anymore? Is it allergies? But we seem to be just fine on our food now, and we've had it our whole lives. The vets didn't think that our food was the issue, but at one point, Dad still contacted our raw food company, and they examined the food we shipped back to was fine.
Fast forward to the Orthodox Easter Day. Joey is doing the same exact same thing he was doing on Easter. Doesn't Joey like Easter? What is his problem? Huge puddles of watery vomit, and there is no end in sight. He is a sick little pup. Off again to the emergency vets. Again, he is so dehydrated that he spends 2 days at the vets, and he was much sicker this time. A vet from Joey's previous visit talks to Dad and sternly says "This is the same problem he presented with before. You better figure out exactly what his problem is with your regular vet, he is very sick. We don't want to see him here again."
Devastated and scared, and with no sleep for almost 24 hours, our Dad went home to take a nap. There, on the floor by the bed was one last pile of vomit he must have missed on clean-up duty, but this one was different. It was a pile of leaves. It was a pile of leaves from the succulents. What a fool our Dad has been all this time. He grabbed some clippings of the plants and took them to the vet. The vet couldn't determine if they were the exact cause of Joey and Maggie's issues, but more GI tests were ran that all came back fine. The houseplant was removed.
It's now been about 6 months since Joey's last event. After $3,500 in vet bills, Joey and Maggie are happy and healthy, and looking forward to turning 8-years-old in December. We can assume at this point that the houseplant was the cause of their issues. We're embarrassed to tell this tale, but hopefully other dachshund and dog owners can learn from our mistakes. Please watch your dogs around plants of any kind, indoors or out. Dogs are fragile creatures. Check the ASPCA's huge list of poisonous plants, and assume that most of your flower garden is poisonous. Keep house plants out of your dog's reach, and pick up any leaves that fall on the floor. If your dog is sick, think beyond what they may have gotten into, and think about the plants in your house and in your yard. We dearly wish the vets would have asked us what type of house plants we had at Joey's first vet visit in January. But most of all, love your dogs.


Anonymous said...

Joey and Maggie, thanks so much for telling your story! I bet those leaves tasted really good, though. Bummer they were so bad for you. Stick with the good bones and yummy food you get 'cause your dad gets you the best stuff!

Bogie and Monty

Ruby and Penny said...

Thanks so much for posting this.
I know us doxies can like to eat. I threw up all last night because I had decided to eat gravel when I was out walking. You could hear the pings as the gravel & vomit hit the floor.

Love Ruby

Rowdy and Bette said...

Thanks Bogie and Monty! And thanks Ruby, glad to hear you're feeling better. Doxies sure do like to eat!

MaggieandBandit said...

Thank you for the story....we always need to hear horror stories to keep us honest. Our staff won't bring plants in any more, but it won't keep us from eating whatever we find. One time Maggie found a tube of Aspercreme under the bathroom cabinet and ate it. That was very bad. The staff called poison control and ended up giving her a couple teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide. Wow Maggie Fountain! ...and it worked. So don't be afraid to tell your story. We all learn.

Rowdy and Bette said...

No problem Maggie and Bandit. Sorry to hear about the aspercreme, but glad everything worked its way out!

Anonymous said...

Good reminder! My Joe had a seizure that sent us to the ER and the first thing they asked about was plants. You know, even if the plants aren't poisonous themselves, who knows what they might have been sprayed with?


Unknown said...

Actually- I am quite surprised at the US ignorance.

Dackels are in Germany famous for eating EVERYTHING & ANYTHING that could possibly get in their mouth!

It is advised you monitor them at all times when they are in the yard-
If you cannot- fit a muzzle. Sometimes they can be quite snappy with young children

A Dackel is NOT A GOOD DOG- he is very naughty, very curious, very stubborn and VERY GREEDY.
He is even worse than a human toddler.
Treat him as a toddler with a giant mouth and very stubborn.

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