According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "the potential for a rubber plant to be poisonous depends upon which kind of plant it is." The terms "rubber plant" and "rubber tree" are commonly used as catchalls for describing several different plants. The ASPCA says that "certain rubber plants do have some toxic potential, depending upon the genus and species." However, the toxicity levels vary depending on the plant and how much of it is consumed by the dog or other animal in question.
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Types of Rubber Plants
The Crassula arborescens is commonly referred to as the Japanese rubber plant. The rubber tree is formally named Ficus elastica, and the variegated rubber plant is Ficus Honduras. The baby or American rubber plant is Peperomia obutsifolia. The Indian rubber plant, Indian rubber tree, fig and weeping fig are all names for Ficus benjamina.
Symptoms of Rubber Plant Poisoning
If a dog ingests Crassula arborescens, it may cause vomiting, depression and a loss of coordination. Ficus elastica and Ficas Honduras will both cause what the ASPA refers to as "moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation" if ingested. Peperomia obutsifolia, may cause a dog to suffer some mild stomach upset if consumed, but is not considered to be toxic by the ASPA. Similarly, most plants in the genus Peperomia are not thought to be toxic to animals. Ficus benjamina is toxic to dogs and cats. If this plant comes in contact with a dog's skin it can cause dermatitis, and ingestion is likely to cause oral irritation, salivation and vomiting.
What Makes Rubber Plants Poisonous
The milky sap in the leaves and stems of the rubber plant is the part of the plant that makes it poisonous for animals. The Washington Poison Center emphasises that it is "the dose that makes the poison."
The amount of the rubber plant that the dog ingests will be a key factor in determining how sick the dog becomes.
Identification of Rubber Plants
The different types of rubber plants are similar in appearance. Rubber plants are most easily identified by their shiny, glossy leaves. Rubber trees and plants vary in size and in shape. Leaf shapes may vary, but are typically long, elliptical and have a thick, leathery texture. They may be dark green or pink in colour.
Rubber plants vary in size, depending on the exact species of plant, and grow outdoors in warm climates.
If you believe your dog has ingested a rubber plant and are either uncertain of its toxicity or know it was toxic, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian wants you to take your dog in for immediate treatment, the ASPCA recommends bringing a sample of the ingested plant to the veterinarian's office with you.
The ASPCA also operates a Poison Control Center Hotline for animals which is available 24 hour a day, 365 day. The number for this centre is 1-888-426-4435. In the event you are unable to reach your veterinarian in a poisoning situation, you can call the ASPCA hotline for guidance and treatment advice.
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