Dodger is adorable. He’s energetic, the first to greet a visitor at the door. He might also be a bit mischievous, the type of best friend who’ll eat anything.
Dodger is a poodle schnauzer terrier, a beloved member of Karl Bathke’s family. They welcomed him into their home in La Cañada Flintridge about four years ago as a puppy after finding him at a shelter.
Dodger is fortunate to be alive. About a year ago, he ingested poisonous Brunfelsia latifolia seeds, the seeds belonging to the popular warm-weather plant also known as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
When Bathke returned from work one late-afternoon, he immediately realized something was wrong: “Dodger always meets me at the gate, but he was lying prostrate and he was drooling,” Bathke said. “He was frothing at the mouth, unable to move.”
He tried to give water to his dog, but it didn’t help. And when Dodger started having severe convulsions, Bathke rushed him to the vet.
He said both the vet — and the experts at the pet hospital where Dodger stayed overnight — misdiagnosed his dog. They agreed that he was showing signs of epilepsy, and prescribed a lifetime of medication to counter that.
But Bathke wasn’t sure the plant specimens that Dodger threw up while at the vet weren’t the culprit.
“Something didn’t seem right, so my instincts got me searching my yard for the mysterious seeds,” wrote Bathke in an email describing the situation. “I finally found them — in fact, hundreds of them around our brunfelsia bushes.”
He took samples to Armstrong Nursery for inspection. A member of the staff immediately identified the plant and checked the store’s archives to determine whether the seeds were poisonous. Bathke said that’s when he learned those seeds can be fatal in almost half of the cases of animal ingestion.
“Needless to say,” he said, “we removed all the bushes and seeds.”
Now he’s keeping a vigilant eye out to make sure the plant doesn’t return, and he’s spreading the word, telling everyone he knows to beware of the dangers of the unique, sweet-smelling flowering bush that’s best known for flowers that last for three days, changing colors from purple to lavender to almost white.
According to petpoisonhelp.wpengine.com/poisons, Brunfelsia plants contain two toxins found in all parts of the plant.
One is a stimulant (brunfelsamidine) and the other toxic agent is a depressant (hopeanine). When ingested by dogs and cats, they can exhibit severe signs that include vomiting, anxious behavior, coordination problems, tremors and seizures. Veterinary attention is required.
It’s worth noting that Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is far from the only plant that poses such risks to pets. Poinsettias, so popular around the holidays, are mildly toxic if ingested by pets. But they’re nowhere near the threat of holiday bouquets that could contain lilies, holly or mistletoe. One or two bites from a lily can cause severe kidney failure in cats.
While researching Brunfelsia, Bathke learned that even grapes and raisins can be fatally toxic for dogs.
He said he’s not upset with the veterinarians who treated Dodger; he’s most concerned with helping other pet-owners avoid similar incidents.
“The seizures were horrible,” he said. “We’re all pet-lovers, so you can imagine, you’re so sad for him. And the doc wasn’t sure he was going to make it. But he survived.
“I just want people to realize how dangerous those plants are, [especially] if they have animals, and especially ones like him that will eat anything.”