Tradescantia the new Rhoeo

January 17th, 2010

There have been some questions about a plant named Rhoeo and its connection to dermatitis in domestic animals. Rhoeo has been renamed Tradescantia which was included in the book. But lets look over this plant again.

Rhoeo spathacea, R. discolor, R. bermudensis Syn: Tradescantia discolor, Tradescantia spathacea
Rhoeo spathacea variegata, R. spathacea Vittata Syn. Tradescantia spathacea Vittata.

Common Name: Boatlily, Moses-in-a-basket, Oyster Plant

Scientific Family: Commelinaceae

Commonly seen in: Tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climates. It is a very common plant, which is located in a number of areas including shopping complexes, domestic gardens, and parks, along roads and in public arenas.

Toxicity Rating: Low but the dermatitis can be severe.

Signs of Toxicity:

Skin: Severe contact dermatitis. Dogs will scratch themselves until they are bleeding.
Gastrointestinal: Vomiting and diarrhoea.

First Point of Call: If you pet has had direct contact with the plant and any redness or rash is seen, rinse your pet in water of rat least 10 minutes to reduce the severity of the symptoms. If your pet has consumed this plant, remove any plant remaining in your pet’s mouth and gently rinse around the mouth with water. If diarrhoea or vomiting persist, contact your veterinarian.

Description: An Evergreen plant which grows in a rosette fashion to 60 centimetres in height. It has strap like leaves, which can be variegated and are smooth in texture. They are usually deep green above with a purple underside. The inconspicuous white flowers are borne among the leaves and grow in a clustered arrangement. They are enclosed within two purplish bracts and can bloom all year.

Poisoning Occurs: By direct contact or by ingestion of this plant.

Poisonous Parts: The leaves.

Toxic Principles: Unknown but possibly oxalate crystals.

O’Kane, Nicole (2009). Poisonous2pets: Plants poisonous to dogs and cats. Palmer Higgs Pty Ltd: Melbourne.

The photos of the Tradescantia spathacea are courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr.

On an entirely different note, you may have noticed that there is a lovely green tree frog on the left hand side of my home page. When you click on this link it takes you to the site of a wonderful organization called Animals Australia. Please click on the link and take a look. They are an extremely important organization that does a lot of good work. Animals Australia do not receive anything from being added to my site, I just believe in the work that they do and wanted to help their cause by linking to their site from mine.

I hope everyone enjoyed their new year, and until next time…. Have a great 2010.

The Ironwood Tree – Northern Territory be warned

November 25th, 2009  

Ironwood poisoning is extremely difficult to treat as death occurs quickly with little warning, therefore vigilance is important when settling livestock or when introducing new animals to paddocks where ironwood is prevalent.

Erythrophleum chlorostachyum

Common Name: Northern Ironwood.

Animals usually affected: Buffalo, Camels, Cattle, Deer, Donkeys, Goats, Horses and sheep.

Toxicity Rating: Extremely high, death can occur in 24 to 48 hours.

Signs of Toxicity:

Eyes: Sunken, pale staring eyes,
Gastrointestinal: Severe colic, abdominal pain and loss of appetite
Musculoskeletal: Recumbency
Cardiovascular: Cardiac hemorrhage
General: Bloody faeces

Description: The Northern Ironwood is a shrub or tree, which can grow to approximately 15 metres in height. Its bark is rough in texture and is tessellated or tile like in appearance. Its leaves are rounded, glossy and are dark to mid-green in colour. The flowers come in a range of colours from white to yellow to green and are usually seen around July to November. The fruit is a seed contained within a pod.

Geographic location and distribution: Commonly seen in a number of habitats but is usually situated around Northern Australia.

Poisoning Occurs: By ingestion. Animals most at risk are those who have previously had no exposure to the plant e.g. young animals. Ironwood leaves can also be found in contaminated hay products.

Poisonous Parts: The leaves are extremely toxic. 10grams of leaves can kill an adult horse or cattle. One or two leaves will kill a sheep or goat.

Toxic Principles: Alkaloids, Cardiac Alkaloids, Erythrophleum

Cane toads; a summer threat to your pet

November 17th, 2009

As the weather gets warmer and summer comes about, a certain little critter dog and cat lovers have to be on the lookout for is the dreaded cane toad. Unfortunately some pets love to mouth or chew on toads and this can become very problematic. Therefore please find below some information which may be useful to you and which may assist in the prevention of your pet being poisoned by these toxic amphibians. As usual, I have divided the information into sections for ease of reading. If you have any other questions about the Cane Toad please email me and I will do my best to answer any enquiries.

 Geographic Location:

There are over 200 species of Bufo toad in the world. Below are some of the most common and toxic species of toad and where they can be located.

Bufo marinus (Cane or Marine Toad) located in Florida, Texas, Hawaii and Australia

Bufo alvarius (Colorado River Toad) located in California and Arizona.

Bufo vulgaris located in Europe

Bufo gargarizans located in Asia.

The toad is most active during a period of rainfall, and can usually be seen from dusk to dawn.

Photo courtesy of Bidgee. Bufo marinus (Cane Toad). Darwin, Northern Territory. This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. In short: you are free to distribute and modify the file as long as you attribute its author(s) or licensor(s).


Toads were introduced into Australia in 1935 to assist in the control of the cane beetle, unfortunately due to the fact that they have no natural enemies to speak of; they have become prolific in some regions and are spreading at an alarming rate. The Cane toad can grow up to 24 cm and the female toad can lay up to 40,000 eggs in one season (per month).

Toad venom is the toads defence mechanism to prevent it being attacked and threatened. The venom is a thick, creamy white, highly irritating substance which is secreted by the glands which are located the back of the toad, behind the eyes, on their dorsum. The venom can also be secreted from the warts located on a toad’s skin.

Poisoning Occurs: Toads do not spit the poison as commonly believed and they don’t bite.

Poisoning usually occurs by contact with an open skin wound, through the venom’s exposure to your pet’s eyes or by mouthing the toad and expressing the glands by pressure.

Toxic Parts: The internal organs of the toad and the venom.

Signs of Toxicity:

The severity of the symptoms depend on a number of factors such as; the extent of the exposure, the time since exposure, and the particular species of toad your pet has been in contact with, the size of the toad (the larger the toad, the larger the glands and therefore the larger amount of venom) and its geographical location (the same species of toad can vary in toxicity due to it’s habitat). Symptoms will also depend on the age of your pet, any underlying diseases or health problems your pet has and the amount of poison ingested in relation to its total body weight.

Gastrointestinal: Frothy drooling, increased salivation (or hyper salivation), vigorous head shaking, pawing at the mouth and retching or the dry heaves. Vomiting can occur and persist for several hours.

In the more venomous amphibians, the following symptoms can result.

Eyes: Many dogs and cats may exhibit a blank or trance like stare.

Respiratory: Difficulty breathing and cyanosis or a blue tinge to the skin and mucous membranes which can be indicative of pulmonary oedema. Depending on the species of toad involved the mucous membranes can also be brick red in colour and look red and inflamed.

Cardiovascular: Abnormal heart rhythms and cardiac arrest.

Central Nervous System: Anxiousness, ataxia or a staggering gait or walk, the animal may also be seen to exhibit signs such as circling, falling, leaning, or stumbling which can lead to prostration and coma. Seizures and death can occur within 15 minutes depending on the species of the toad. Cats may exhibit weakness in their hindquarters.

Toxic Principles: Bufagins, bufagenins, bufotenine, bufotoxins, catecholamines, dopamine, epinephrine, ergosterol, indolealkylamines, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Differential diagnoses: Heat stroke, seizure disorders, other toxins such as metaldehyde (a chemical used to kill slugs and snails), theobromine (found in chocolate or cocoa), insoluable oxalate-containing plants, pyrethrins (natural organic insecticides) and pyrethroids (synthetically made insecticide), oleander and anticholinesterase insecticdes (insecticides which act as a nerve gas or agent). Caustic materials, such as various acid and alkali materials can cause severe hyper salivation and red mucous membranes and should be excluded from the diagnosis.

First Point of Call: There is not specific antidote to toad poisoning. Treatment is usually trying to minimise the absorption of the venom. The first thing to do is to try to remove as much of the toxin from the dog’s mouth as possible, by holding the mouth down and drying it with a paper towel. The mouth should then immediately be flushed with large amounts of water at a slow rate, unless the pet is unconscious or seizing; make sure that you are not flushing the water down the throat but forward or out of it instead – try rinsing the mouth from the side. The flushing should be repeated two to three times for 5 to 10 minutes duration each time. While one person is doing this, another should be phoning the vet to warn them of the occurrence. If the animal is experiencing seizures or the more severe symptoms take them to the nearest veterinarian immediately.


Merck & Co. (2007). The Merck/ Merial Manual for Pet Health. Merck & Co, Inc: USA.

Merck & Co. (2005). The Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck & Co, Inc: USA.

Murphy, M. (1996). A Field Guide to Common Animal Poisons. Iowa State University Press, Iowa.

Peterson, M & Talcott, P. (2006). Small Animal Toxicology (2nd Ed). Elsevier Inc: USA.