Poisonous Plant Kills Dog Suddenly in Larimer County

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The majority of dog owners (70%) take their dog for at least one walk a day, spending about 17 minutes strolling on average, as they should. After all, going for a walk is good for both people and pets alike. It reduces the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer in humans. Walking also helps keep pets healthy, gets them in shape, and can help them work off potentially destructive energy.

Just be careful when taking dogs for a walk, though, as a lethally poison plant recently claimed the life of a dog in Larimer County.

On June 28, a three-year-old border collie mix ate a water hemlock, and died within one hour.

“It started to go down rapidly with losing all the functions and she passed out,” Ludi Fischer, a friend of the dog’s owner, told KWGN. “She couldn’t stand up anymore. She was panting very heavily. Her eyes were out. I mean you could tell she wasn’t there.”

The dog was rushed to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, but died en route. An autopsy revealed that the dog had indeed died after eating water hemlock.

“Water hemlock is one of the most lethal plants in North America,” said Dr. Dawn Duval, an associate professor at Colorado State University’s Department of Clinical Sciences. “It’s a plant that grows in very moist areas, around ditches and lakes.”

Water hemlock, which is sometimes referred to as Cowbane, poison parsnip, or poison parsley, is often cited as being the most violently toxic plant in the United States, and often grows in wet areas, such as irrigation ditches, marshes, damp areas in pastures, and riverbanks. Though every part of the plant is poisonous, the roots contain the highest concentration of toxin. In fact, it only takes between 0.2- to two pounds of hemlock root per 1,000 pounds of a horse’s body weight to cause death.

If consumed, it causes such symptoms as drooling, dilated pupils, weakness, agitation, nervousness, twitching, seizures, cardiac abnormalities, difficult breathing, and death from respiratory paralysis.

“This dog just got unlucky and kind of started playfully chewing on a plant that it shouldn’t be chewing,” said Dr. Duval. “Water hemlock is not a plant that would be particularly appealing to dogs.”

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