Plant Oxalate Poisoning in Dogs

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Last updated on
5 min read

Key takeaways

Plant oxalate poisoning occurs due to ingestion of oxalate-containing plants. Both soluble and insoluble oxalates can lead to poisoning in dogs, and both are found in oxalate-containing plants.

  • Insoluble calcium oxalates, which are primarily in the Araceae family of plants, cause irritation of the mouth, throat, and stomach
  • Primarily symptoms include irritation of the mouth and throat leading to hypersalivation, vomiting, oral pain, and lack of appetite
  • Symptoms can be severe if eyes and airways are affected
  • Insoluble calcium oxalates can be found in plants like rhubarb, shamrock plant, and star fruit
  • Large amounts of soluble oxalate can cause kidney injury
  • Diagnostics include a dietary history, physical examination, diagnostic imaging, blood work, and urinalysis
  • Treatment includes rinsing the mouth with water or milk, decontamination, anti-inflammatories, IV fluids, and supportive care
  • Prognosis is generally good as the fatal dosage is very high for both forms of oxalates and symptoms often vanish after 24 hours
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A closer look: Plant Oxalate Poisoning in Dogs

Oxalate poisoning can be described in two categories.

Insoluble oxalate crystals more commonly cause toxicity in dogs, as plants containing these compounds are often kept as houseplants. Insoluble oxalate crystals cannot be digested into the body but can cause irritation of the mouth and throat. In some cases, eye irritation may occur. Symptoms appear within two hours of consumption and generally disappear within 24 hours.

Soluble oxalate poisoning is less commonly seen in dogs, as these plants aren’t as readily available to the average dog, and the toxic dose is very high. Soluble oxalic acid and oxalate salts can be absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause kidney damage if ingested in large quantities.

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Risk factors

Oxalate poisoning can be life threatening depending on the type and amount of oxalate ingested. It is rare for a dog to eat enough to become life-threatening, but emergencies can occur. Any dog having difficulty breathing, tremors, or inflammation of the throat, requires emergency veterinary care. Insoluble oxalate poisoning is common in dogs while soluble oxalate poisoning is not common.

Oxalate containing plants that dogs have a risk of exposure to include; arrowhead vine, snake plants, Philodendron, peace lilies, umbrella plants, sweetheart vine, pothos, begonias, starfruits, rhubarb, and shamrock plants.

Possible causes

The cause of oxalate poisoning in dogs is the consumption of oxalate compounds from a number of common plants which produce them.

Main symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

If ingestion is not witnessed, diagnosis primarily relies on which symptoms are present and elimination of other causes. Tests to determine these can include;

  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Blood work
  • Urinalysis
  • Physical examination
  • Dietary history

Steps to Recovery

Treatment of confirmed or suspected oxalate toxicity varies depending on severity. Immediate rinsing of the mouth with water or milk can help with insoluble oxalate poisoning to remove remaining crystals. In the case of difficulty breathing or swelling of the mouth or throat, supplemental oxygen can be used and anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers can also be used. In the case of soluble oxalate poisoning, emesis (induced vomiting) and administration of activated charcoal may be induced to limit absorption of more plant matter.

Induction of vomiting and administration of activated charcoal should only be performed by a veterinarian. There is no safe way to induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal at home.

IV fluids and electrolytes can be used to treat calcium deficiency, which is a potential complication of oxalate poisoning. Medications can be used to reduce tremors and improve kidney function. In cases of long term exposure to soluble oxalates, treatments for kidney failure, including supportive care, may be needed.

Prognosis for oxalate poisoning is good. Both forms require large quantities to be ingested to be life-threatening and if caught quickly, symptoms are minimal and generally cease within 24 hours. Monitoring the dog’s condition and watching for breathing difficulties are most crucial during recovery.


The main course of prevention is to limit contact with plants that can cause oxalate poisoning. Leashing dogs in unfamiliar environments and monitoring them can minimize the chance that they ingest an unknown plant.

Plant oxalate poisoning is not contagious.

Is Plant Oxalate Poisoning in Dogs common?

Plant oxalate poisoning is common in dogs.

Typical Treatment

  • Washing out the mouth with water or milk
  • Decontamination
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Pain medication
  • Supportive care
  • IV fluids


Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
M. M. Rahman, R. B. Abdullah, W. E. Wan Khadijah - Writing for Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition
Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT - Writing for Veterinary Partner
No Author - Writing for Wag!
No Author - Writing for Wag!
Rosalind Dalefield BVSc PhD DipABVT DipABT; Patricia Talcott MS DVM PhD DipABVT - Writing for Vetlexicon

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