Dog training in Dorset and the poisonous hemlock Plant

As a dog and pet gun dog trainer working in Dorset I specialises in training in a live environment, It is important to be aware of the dangers which can be present. One of these dangers is a very common plant which is called the water hemlock.

Water Hemlock; Britain’s most dangerous plant!

If, like me, you love wandering through the countryside with your dog on a weekend morning then you probably let them off their leash to run free ahead of you. That freedom to explore and run about is fantastic for the dogs health and wellbeing – however there is one plant that all dog owners and walkers need to be aware of when out and about; poisonous hemlock.

Dubbed Britain’s most dangerous plant, it is an extremely toxic plant to both humans and animals, particularly dogs, and despite its hazardous nature it grows in abundance around our countryside. There have been lots of cases of dogs dying after eating the plants so all dog owners and anyone who is out dog walking, needs to be vigilant of their pets actions.

hemlock plant and dog training

What is Water Hemlock?

Part of the Apiaceous family, Water Hemlock (or Dropwort as it’s otherwise known) typically grows in damp ground and shallow water so is commonly found around marshes, streams and large bodies of water. A relation to the same plant that carrots come from, Hemlock roots often emit a similar smell when broken; which can attract your dog to the plant.

If you have ever walked through the British countryside, then there is a very high probability that you have wandered past the plant without as much as a second thought. Growing up to five feet high, the plant has thick roots and a dark green, smooth stem that has a head of small white flowers. The plant certainly does not look as dangerous as it really is, which is why many people simply wander by unaware.

What makes it so dangerous?

Primarily, there are two main toxins found within the plant – cicutoxin and cicutol. When just a tiny amount of either is ingested, it can begin to effect the brain and nervous system and is lethal enough to kill both humans and animals within a few hours.

The root of the plant is the most dangerous, with each stalk containing pockets of a brown/beige liquid packed with toxins.

What are the signs of hemlock poisoning?

In order to ensure the best possible chance of survival, you need to make sure you are aware of the symptoms as speed is very much critical.

Poisoning is often comes on very quick so some of the core things to watch out for include:

  • Excessive Drooling
  • Muscle twitching and spasms
  • Hyperventilating
  • Increased Temperature
  • Pupil dilation
  • Rolling eyeballs
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Increased Heart Rate

How to treat hemlock poisoning

If you suspect your dog has eaten hemlock and is suffering with symptoms of poisoning, then it is imperative that you seek assistance immediately. If you think your dog has eaten it then call your vet immediately and seek their advice.

Death usually occurs due to the seizures brought on by the poison, which then in turn prevent the heart and lungs from working the way they normally should. Despite the severity of the poisoning, it is not incurable and with fast reactions and early interventions you will be able to save your dog’s life.

The first thing your vet will try to do is to induce vomiting in your dog before washing out their stomach using a lavage tube. Once this has been completed your dog will then be encouraged to eat a special charcoal tablet which helps to absorb the rest of the toxins in its body. In some cases, your vet might also administer anti-seizure medication and place your dog on oxygen whilst they monitor them.

Whilst this is not a warning to keep your dog on a leash and monitor absolutely everything they do, the water hemlock plant is a very real threat to your pet – particularly for those breeds such as Terriers and Jack Russell’s who like to dig around in the undergrowth. By keeping a closer eye on them and being aware of the symptoms, you’ll be able to ensure you dog enjoys a long and healthy life.