Oxalate-Containing Plants

Chapter 67 Oxalate-Containing Plants


Calcium oxalate crystals are present in a large number of plants, including some used as food (e.g., spinach contains both soluble and insoluble calcium oxalate crystals).1 Several calcium oxalate-containing plants are toxic, but the degree of toxicity varies depending on the type and amount of oxalate crystals present. Plants containing large amounts of soluble oxalates have the potential to cause systemic illness, while insoluble oxalatecontaining plants are of concern primarily for their local effects on the alimentary tract.2 As with other toxins found in plant material, the amount of oxalate in plants can vary with individual plants, growing season, and plant portion.3

Whenever presented with an animal that has been exposed to a plant, it is important to attempt to positively identify the plant in order that appropriate risk assessments may be made. Because common names may be shared by several unrelated plants, genus and species names should be obtained whenever possible to avoid confusion.



A wide variety of common house and landscape plants contain insoluble calcium oxalates (IO) in sufficient quantity to cause clinical signs if chewed on or ingested (Table 67-1). Many of the plants most commonly associated with ingestion by small animals tend to have broad, often shiny leaves and do not produce flowers.4 The family Araceae contains a large number of plants that are popular as ornamentals and that contain IO. Introduction of these plants to a pet’s environment may result in the pet “exploring” the plant with its mouth, often with painful consequences.

Table 67-1 Common Plants Containing Insoluble Calcium Oxalate Crystals2,4

Scientific Name Common Name(s)
Aglaonema modestum Chinese evergreen
Alocasia macrorrhiza Alocacia, giant elephant’s ear, giant taro
Anthurium spp. Flamingo plant
Arisaema triphyllum Jack-in-the-pulpit
Arum italicum Arum
Arum maculatum Cuckoo pint
Caladium bicolor Caladium, elephant ear
Calla palustris Wild calla, wild arum
Colocasia esculenta Taro, dasheen, cocoyam
Dieffenbachia spp. Dumb cane, American arum
Epipremnum (Scindaspus) spp. Devil’s ivy, pothos, marble queen, variegated philodendron, taro vine
Lysichiton americanum Yellow skunk cabbage
Philodendron spp. Philodendrons
Pistia stratiotes Water lettuce, shellflower
Spathiphyllum spp. Peace lily, white sails
Symplocarpus foetidus Skunk cabbage
Syngonium podophyllum Nephthytis
Xanthosoma spp. Blue tannia, blue taro, caladium, elephant ears, malanga, tannia, yautia
Zantedeschia aethiopica Calla lily, arum lily


Despite the fact that even a single bite of IO plants has the potential to cause immediate and intense clinical signs, many exposures result in no apparent clinical effects in dogs and cats.5 The severity of signs is dependent upon the concentration and type of oxalate crystals in the plant and the extent of exposure. Fortunately, immediate pain often results in cessation of chewing, limiting exposure. In humans, ingestion of Dieffenbachia leaves has occasionally been associated with pharyngeal obstruction resulting in potentially fatal respiratory compromise.6 A single case report exists of a dog fatality caused by airway obstruction following ingestion of Dieffenbachia picta (dumb cane).7 However, because the relatively large pharyngeal area in species such as dogs and cats makes complete obstruction from tissue swelling uncommon, most cases of ingestion of IO plants by these pets are rarely serious or life threatening. A few early anecdotal reports on Philodendron spp. suggested that nephrotoxicity or neurotoxicity was possible, especially in cats, but attempts to reproduce these clinical effects in experimental felines have not been successful.2 In canaries, orally administered suspensions of Dieffenbachia leaves resulted in acute death, but no adverse effects were reported when budgerigars were similarly dosed.8,9

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Sep 11, 2016 | Posted by in SMALL ANIMAL | Comments Off on Oxalate-Containing Plants
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