Oleander can be very toxic to humans and pets, but many people don't know that. Unfortunately, it can be a lesson learned the hard way.
"The plant is very toxic," says DVM Heather Connally, an emergency room veterinarian.
She sees as many as three dogs every month that have ingested Oleander leaves or flowers.
If dogs get aggressive treatment early, they usually don't die. But without treatment, survival is iffy.
"They have seizures," she says. "In later stages they become comatose and of course, die from it."
"It's very common for us to get a call about an animal who has ingested oleander," says Keith Boesen, the managing director of Arizona poison control.
He says the entire plant is toxic, "leaves, flowers and roots." But he also adds determining whether an animal will die is not an exact science.
The toxicity is determined by the health of the plant and the season. If a plant is healthy and in full bloom, it's likely more toxic and will take less to cause serious damage.
If a dog starts vomiting, it can be a sign it has eaten oleanders and needs emergency treatment. And the sooner the better.
"It can be very quick," says Connally. "Within a couple of hours up to 24 hours."
If the vet can't figure out right away why a young dog is suffering from an irregular heart beat, a few questions might solve the puzzle.
"Sometimes the owner doesn't know until we ask them if they have oleanders," she says.
That will often solve the problem and get the animal on an intensive treatment which can last a week or more.
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