Autumn Crocus Poisoning in Dogs and Cats

Azalea - Toxic Flowering Plants for your Cat and Dog

Autumn Crocus

Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) is a flowering plant that blooms in the autumn.  The plant is widely known to be toxic. However, it is cultivated as an ornamental plant.

But if you have either a cat or a dog at home, cultivating this plant in your backyard is a terrible idea. Cats especially, like to chew on leaves and if your feline friend were to find himself chewing on one of these, he will be intoxicated.

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About the Plant

The Autumn Crocus resembles true crocuses, however, while true crocuses belong to the Iridaceae family, this one is actually a lily. Just like other lilies, it contains a toxic alkaloid known as colchicine.

The plant goes by several names, including meadow saffron and naked ladies. It is a perennial herb that can grow up to 10 in (25 cm) long.

Symptoms of Autumn Crocus Poisoning

Symptoms from the consumption of Autumn Crocus can occur almost immediately or some days after ingestion has occurred. The colchicine in the plant will cause gastrointestinal distress, vomiting in dog and cats, and diarrhea on your pet.  If left untreated, it may even cause death.

Some other symptoms that your pet might experience if he has consumed the plant are:

  • Anemia
  • Blood in his stool
  • Mouth burning
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slow heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Death

What to do

Given this level of toxicity, it is important that if you see your pet eating the plant or suspect that he has, check for the signs described above and contact your veterinarian.

If you suspect your pet has eaten Autumn Crocus, bring a sample to the veterinarian.  This will help him identify the type of poison been dealt with and will issue a better prescription.

In case you have no proof of the ingestion, the veterinarian will take a sample of blood to perform a chemistry profile, urinalysis, and a complete blood count. Also, the stool will be examined to check for any remains of the plant.

There is no antidote to colchicine, so the best line of action is to try to remove as much poison from the system as possible. Either by making the patient vomit in case the ingestion was recent or a gastric lavage in case it was ingested after a while.

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