Pretty Poison in the Yard Series-update on “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, Brunfelsia

Pretty Poisons in the yard: Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, YTT); Timely Reminder 2017.

OPAL Score=2

After a lull of some years, we suddenly have cases of Yesterday Today & Tomorrow poisoning again. It’s as though owners have forgotten how deadly this plant is to our pets so we thought it best to do a timely reminder to highlight the danger.

The background history to this plant is that back in 2006, we alerted the general pet owner population, other Vets, Florists and TAFE teachers about the increasing incidence of dogs being poisoned by this pretty plant. For several years not a month went by that there was not YTT correspondence to our clinic from vets or clients around Australia having an issue with this plant and wanting some assistance with the cases.

At the peak of poisonings, we wrote an article for Sydney Uni’s Control and Therapy (C&T) Publication for vets resulting in other vet clinics hosting our article on their website and in their reception areas to help inform pet owners. We also put out old-fashioned (pre-Facebook) ads, local hardware stores and florist copied our C&T article and sold plants along with our information sheet.

The Program Manager for TAFE NSW circulated our alert to the NSW Floristry Teachers Annual Meeting, the National Floristry Teachers Industry Forum and to the National Horticulture Training Providers Network.

Slowly the cases numbers dwindled away and it’s been about 2 years since we had any cases. Now suddenly a run of new cases. We have had two, a local vet clinic contacted us with a suspected third case and an owner from North Wollongong rang, wondering if their dog in hospital in Sydney with unknown cause of seizures might actually be suffering from YTT poisoning!

We thought we had best update our YTT-Brunfelsia article on our website and now include alerts about this plant on our Facebook and App as well.

The plant is known by its Latin name “Brunfelsia Australis or grandiflora” and grows as a shrub or small tree. The principal toxin is Brunsfelsamidine, a neurotoxin that causes seizures. The toxin is contained in all parts of the plants, but the leaves and flower heads appearing particularly palatable and often eaten in vast quantities.

The plant is also often called the “Chills ” plant because of its hallucinogenic effect in humans who exhibit shivering and shaking as if they are extremely cold and chilled.

Early-on in the presentation, or with only small amounts ingested, the dogs cough and gag, drool huge amounts of saliva, may have flickering or rolling eyes, stand with a wide-eyed spaced-out look, appear disorientated, can walk crab-like and may show anything from mild to moderate distress and anxiety.

If enough toxin is ingested, seizures similar to Strychnine poisoning can occur and may prove fatal.

In late presentation cases, seeds of the plant can be seen in the dog’s droppings. The seeds can sometimes be seen in the vomit.

The number of cases peak between May and September trailing on into December, with some vet clinics seeing up to 3 cases in a given week.

Cases are often being mistaken for other causes of fits and seizures, so it is important to check any garden the dog may have visited in the last few days to look for this plant and find out how much of the plant the dog may have eaten.

The plant should be dug up immediately and put in the bin as we have had cases where the dog returned home to access the plant in the compost bin. Some vets didn’t realise this could happen and thought their initial Yesterday Today & Tomorrow diagnosis was incorrect as the owners insisted the plants had been dug up yet the dog relapsed once it returned home. The plants had been dug up, just not disposed of properly away from where the dog could access it again….

Treatment is what is known as supportive therapy as there is no actual antidote.

Recovery can take hours to weeks depending on the amount ingested or the time delay between correct diagnosis and treatment so take your dog to your vet promptly to start treatment.