Auckland, NZ: A number of deaths this week from dogs poisoned by toxic berries from Karaka trees has led vets to issue a warning.
“We’ve had three dogs present to us this week with poisoning from Karaka berries” says Dr. Mark Robson, founding partner of Veterinary Specialist Group in Auckland. “It’s the time of year when the berries are at their ripest which means they are highly attractive to dogs”.
According to Dr. Robson, 2017 seems particularly bad for toxicity. “The berries ripen and fall at this time of year, and the toxin levels vary for reasons we don’t understand” he says. “We don’t know why dogs like the berries, but dogs are scavengers and will eat anything” he admits.
Robson also suggests that owners should not let dogs off the lead to roam anywhere near Karaka trees.
If you suspect your dog has eaten Karaka berries, it is important you seek veterinary advice immediately. “Get to a vet clinic as fast as you possibly can” says Dr. Robson. “Your dog may show signs of nausea and could have diarrhoea and restlessness. This quickly progresses to more severe gastrointestinal signs and neurologic signs that include pacing, limb rigidity, crying, seizures then unconsciousness”.
Some cases can be rescued however it is much harder once the dog starts to have seizures and becomes unconscious. Serious cases usually need a specialist 24-hour care facility such as the one Veterinary Specialist Group provides in order to recover completely.
“This seems like it’s going to be a bad season” says Dr. Robson. “The most accurate thing we can say is that many dogs die of this toxicity despite prompt and thorough veterinary attention. If you think your dog has ingested these berries, you need to take it extremely seriously” he suggests.
“Whatever happens, if you suspect your dog has ingested something toxic or poisonous, seek medical attention immediately” he says.