How noise phobia resulted in toxic plant ingestion in a dog
My first case of the new year was one that scares most pet parents. It involved a much loved furbaby eating an entire plant... a entire plant that is toxic to pets.
Poor Bettie has a noise phobia, and as her pet parents noticed, her noise phobia has gotten worse over time. It is incredibly common that noise phobias get worse over time rather than better (particularly when you don't have the counter conditioning tools and sometimes medication needed to help reduce the symptoms).
Sunday night was New Years Eve, and NYE in Sydney means one thing - AMAZING fireworks across our beautiful harbour city. Now, whilst those of us with two legs love watching the fireworks, our four legged friends find it much more stressful. And if they are like Bettie it will induce a full blown panic attack.
I don't know for sure what Bettie was thinking as the fireworks were going off around her but my best guess is that in her panicked state she attempted to soothe herself by chewing. Chewing is known to be a self soothing behaviour (think of kids/adults who chew on their nails when they are anxious), however when it is done to excess it is a sign that your pet is feeling very stressed. Consuming an entire toxic plant would be considered to excess. Excessive chewing is how my boy Charlie shows his anxiety. I know when he's feeling anxious, there is always something being chewed up and destroyed.
Moving onto the toxic plant. Unfortunately for Bettie, she chose to chew on an Elephant Ear Plant (Colocasia). This is an insoluable calcium oxolate containing plant which when chewed releases crystals which damage any tissue they come in contact with. The most common signs of ingestion are:
- Lack of appetite
- Oral pain
- Pawing at mouth
- Swelling or edema of the upper airway can occur in severe cases resulting in difficulty breathing
The mainstay of treatment for Bettie is going to be supportive care whilst the ulcerations to her mouth and likely her oesphagus heal. She has been painful, drooling and vomiting. I have everything crossed that Bettie has a swift recovery.
It is also vital that her noise phobia is addressed. As her reaction is escalating as time goes on, we need to help prevent this from happening again. My own boys (Charlie and Elmo) have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Management of such a severe anxiety case is likely to involve a referral to a Behavioural Veterinarian (Veterinary Behaviour Team have helped me with my boys), medication, training and home management tactics.
If you recognise that your furbaby could have a similar problem to Bettie your best first step is consultation with your veterinarian who can refer to you to right Veterinary Behaviouralist in your area. Your furbaby does not have to suffer with severe anxiety. Behavioural medicine has come a long way and can make a huge positive impact on their quality of life.
How do you help your furbaby feel better during fireworks and storms?