Is elephant foot toxic to babies and pets like cats?

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Is elephant foot toxic to babies and pets like cats?: cats

The elephant's foot (botanical Beaucarnea recurvata) is a succulent tree, which is native to the tropical and dry forests of Mexico. Due to its bizarre appearance with the trunk thickened only at the base and up to 180 centimeters long, thin and drooping leaves, it is one of the most popular indoor plants in German living rooms. However, parents and pet owners should be aware, because the asparagus plant is poisonous.

Botanical classification

The German trivial name 'elephant foot' is used for two different, very similar plants: 'Beaucarnea recurvata' and 'Beaucarnea stricta'. The popular houseplant belongs to the family of asparagus plants (Asparagaceae) and is distantly related to the palm trees, which are also often cultivated in the home and garden. Sometimes the room tree is also referred to as 'bottle tree', which, however, can lead to a dangerous mix-up. In contrast to 'Beaucarnea recurvata' the eponymous Australian bottle tree or lucky tree (Brachychiton rupestris) is non-toxic.

Elephant foot is poisonous to toddlers and pets

Because of the same trivial name, when buying you should thoroughly check which 'bottle tree' it actually is. Since all parts of the elephant foot contain saponins, if they are consumed by small children or pets, they can cause severe poisoning. However, the plant is not considered highly toxic, but can cause extremely unpleasant symptoms in humans and animals - they are the more pronounced, the smaller the child or the animal. In general, adults would need to eat very large amounts of the plant to develop appropriate symptoms.
The elephant's foot is poisonous for:
  • Babies and small children
  • cats
  • dogs
  • Budgies and other birds
  • Rabbits and guinea pigs
  • as well as other pets (like mice, rats or hamsters)

Always place the elephant foot out of the reach of children and animals

Elephant foot poisonous for babies and pets

Among other things, the renowned Institute of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology in Zurich and the no less respectable information center against poisoning at the University Hospital Bonn certify the toxicity of the elephant foot for children and pets and recommend to place the plant out of their reach. Both children and animals can be supervised around the clock, but like to try out of the house plants out of curiosity in an unobserved moment. For this reason, parents and pet owners should rather play it safe and either refrain from the Elefantenfu├č as a room decoration or set it up in a location where neither children nor animals have access.

What are saponins?

The toxicity of the elephant's foot is caused by the contained saponins, which occur as a natural fungicide and antibiotic in many plants. Legumes such as peas or asparagus and spinach contain saponins, but the highest concentrations occur in typical desert plants, including the elephant's foot. In low doses, these plant substances are used in medicine, but in higher concentrations can cause inflammation or even cause tissue damage. In addition, they have a hemolytic effect, so they can dissolve the blood into its components and must therefore never fall into the bloodstream.
Tip: The blood-dissolving action of saponins is especially important if you have cut yourself on the sharp leaves of the elephant's foot - the wound should be immediately thoroughly cleaned under running water. Otherwise, it can be difficult to ignite. When handling (for example pruning) the plant, it is also advisable to wear strong gloves.

Signs of poisoning

If the child or pet has eaten something of elephant foot - cats like to nibble the tips of the leaves - it makes a poisoning by various symptoms noticeable. First, you experience discomfort, perhaps accompanied by dizziness and nausea, as well as a sudden tiredness. Even abdominal pain, cramps and blurred vision are typical. In the later course, it can come to vomiting, often with blood spitting out. Contact of the vegetable juice with the skin or open wounds may cause skin irritation and even purulent inflammation.

First aid measures in case of poisoning

Do not bring child or animal to vomit, because this can only worsen the symptoms of intoxication. Instead, the person should drink as much still water as possible to flush out the toxins. Do not give milk to drink: Contrary to popular belief, this does not neutralize the poison. Keep calm and see a doctor or veterinarian. If known, you can also contact the poison emergency department responsible for your area.

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