The common name “shamrock” can refer to several different plants, and it is always important to identify them by their scientific name. When the APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) receives calls about shamrocks around St. Patrick’s Day, Oxalis acetosella is typically the plant involved. These are often given to families and children in celebration of the holiday. I have one on my counter now. I did not know these were dangerous and my girl Saddie May has no discretion whatsoever when counter surfing and what she will eat.
When pets ingest this plant, it can cause a range of issues from a simple upset stomach to drooling and immediate head shaking. If a large amount is eaten, it can cause low blood calcium and damage to the kidneys. Some good news, these plants taste fairly bitter, so most pets won’t be tempted to nibble it but that doesn’t mean it never happens. As pet owners, we have all learned to say, “never say never!” Should your pet ingest shamrocks, call your veterinarian or the APCC immediately.
OK, and one more thing, alcohol! Unfortunately, many dogs—and even some cats—will happily lap up anything left out on the table. During St. Patrick’s Day, there is a spike of calls to APCC due to pets accidentally ingesting alcoholic drinks. Typically, signs of depression and drunkenness in dogs appear within an hour of ingestion, including difficulty walking, lethargy and stomach upset. If enough ethanol (the principal ingredient) is ingested, a coma may occur. The other concern with affected pets is that they will vomit and be unable to protect their airway. If this happens, they can inhale the vomit into their lungs and contract pneumonia, which can be very severe.
So help educate family and friends around ethanol toxicity. Best case scenario is to keep your pets in a safe, quiet room away from the festivities. However, as we return to a newer normal, if there is a situation where they are around music concerts, festivals, outdoor eating, etc., simply don’t place drinks at your pets’ level.
If you have any reason to suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24 hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.