Why Oleander Shrubs Are Poisonous To Your Pets

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Oleander toxicosis is caused when pets, unknowingly, eat some part of the oleander shrub. Each and every part of this plant is poisonous to animals as they can cause muscle contractions in the heart. The bark, stem, leaves, flowers, fruits, and even water containing some bit of the plant is poisonous to your pets as they contain substances called glycosides, which are harmful to heart health.

Oleanders (Nerium oleander) are flowery shrubs that frequently grow by driveways or highways and go unnoticed. Predominant in the US, these plants tend to grow in tropical and subtropical regions and warm places like Hawaii and California. Although they are pleasant on the eye, these pretty plants can be quite lethal for your pets.

Dogs, cats, cows, horses, birds, or any other domestic animals are at as much risk as your children are from oleander poisoning.1 The only good thing about this plant is that it holds no attraction as such for your pets. Even then, there are ways your pets end up eating some bit of the oleanders. More often than not, oleander toxicosis occurs due to intentional poisoning using oleanders.

What Is Oleander Toxicosis?

Oleander toxicosis causes an electrolyte imbalance in the heart muscles.

Oleander toxicosis causes abnormal muscle contractions in the heart, which requires immediate medical attention.

Oleander plants contain substances called cardiac glycosides, of as many as 30 types. All of these are toxins that can disrupt the working of the heart muscle by causing an electrolyte imbalance. Oleanders do so and work pretty much the same way as drugs for heart disorders, like digoxin.

These plants are as poisonous to your pets as dogbane, giant and regular milkweed, star of Bethlehem, lily of the valley, foxglove, and kalanchoe.

What Are The Symptoms Of Oleander Toxicosis?

Oleander toxicosis in pets can be lethal with symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, atrial fibrillation, and more.

Depending on the dosage and the part of the plant eaten, the symptoms can vary. But the most common ones are these:

  • Drooling
  • Drowsiness, weakness, and laziness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low blood sugar
  • Loss of coordination and collapsing
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Seizure

If not treated immediately, your pet could die of oleander poisoning, a lot sooner than you can think.

Which Part Of The Oleander Plant Should You Avoid?

The whole of the oleander plant is poisonous to your pets.

Each and every part of the oleander plant, including the leaves, flowers, stem, root, and seeds, is harmful to your pets. The only difference would be in the concentration level of glycosides, which is highest in the stem and roots followed by the leaves and flowers. It might do you good to especially beware of the oleanders with red flowers.

How much is too much? As little as 0.0005 percent of your pet’s body weight or 0.25 mg of the leaves per kg of the body weight is believed to be lethal enough for your pet.

How To Recognize The Oleander Shrub

The oleander plant is easy to recognize and keep your pets away from.

The oleander plant can be as tall as 3–6 meters. It contains a narrow bunch of leaves dark green in color that tend to grow in pairs of 3. The flowers can be of different shades of white, pink, or red. These plants also bear fruits, something in the shape of capsules, with a sticky, clear sap.

While these are usually street-side plants, some grow oleanders in gardens. If you’re one of those, just remember that even the water containing leaves of oleanders can be poisonous for your innocent pets. Keep a watch out for what they eat and make sure they do not consume anything from unknown sources.

References   [ + ]

1.Langford, Shannon D., and Paul J. Boor. “Oleander toxicity: an examination of human and animal toxic exposures.” Toxicology 109, no. 1 (1996): 1-13.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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