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Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Dieffenbachia

cat poisonous diffenbachia

Dieffenbachia is a genus of perennial, tropical, flowering plants that are widely sold and commonly kept as houseplants due to their tolerance of shade and their pretty and varied appearances. If you have pets, it's important to know that these plants are poisonous if eaten or chewed on. Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of Dieffenbachia toxicity in dogs and cats.

What is Dieffenbachia?

This plant is known by many other names such as Dumb Cane, Charming Dieffenbachia, Giant Dumb Cane, Tropic Snow, Dumbcane, Exotica, Spotted Dumb Cane, and Exotica Perfection. There are close to 60 different species of Dieffenbachia plants!

Will my dog get sick if he eats a Dieffenbachia plant?

Consumption of these plants by cats and dogs causes severe irritation to the oral mucosa (traumatic stomatitis), esophagus, and stomach due to insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. Imagine chewing on fiberglass, or glass itself! When your pet chews on the leaves, it releases the calcium oxalate crystals, and they penetrate the tissues of the mouth and consequently the gastrointestinal tract. Dogs and cats that chomp on these plants will develop painful ulcerations in their mouths that cause an intense burning sensation within minutes.

Signs of Dieffenbachia Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

You may notice your pet drooling excessively, licking, lip-smacking, avoiding food and water, and being generally miserable. Some animals may paw at their mouths, vomit, or in severe cases develop swelling of the upper respiratory tract causing difficulty breathing (uncommon).

Raphides - long, skinny, needle-like formations of calcium oxalate crystals - are responsible for the pain in the mouth and for the origin of the nicknames “Dumb Cane” (preventing speaking due to pain in the mouth).

What should I do if my pet eats part of this plant?

Fortunately, Dieffenbachia is not severely toxic, and pets usually get better with no significant consequences. However, a trip to the vet is advised to provide your pet with pain medication until the oral ulceration resolves. Your vet may also prescribe gastroprotectant medication to help protect the lining of the esophagus and stomach.

Since these plants are quite common, and many people have them in their household, it is essential that you keep them in a place where your pets cannot get to them. Even a small bite of the tip of a leaf or drinking water that has leaked from these plants can cause oral irritation.

For more information and pictures of Dieffenbachia, check out these links:

ASPCA: Dieffenbachia

Pet Poison Helpline

Insoluble Oxalates

Read more in our series of poisonous plants for your dog and cat:

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Tulips

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Philodendron

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Azalea

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding poisonous plants for pets or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

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