We have all heard stories about giant hogweed and how dangerous it can be, but just what exactly is it, how hazardous is it, what are the threats from giant hogweed to our dogs., and how can it be identified so we can keep ourselves and our pups at a safe distance?
What is Giant Hogweed?
To give it its botanical name, Heracleum Maximum, sometimes known as cow parsnip, Giant Hogweed is a carrot family member and a cow parsley relative. It can grow up to 6 metres tall and is a hairy biennial plant with white umbrella-like flower clusters and dark green leaves, sometimes 1-3 feet in diameter. It’s mostly found growing along riverbanks and footpaths but also in cemeteries and parks and along common routes for dog walkers. It has a reputation for being the most dangerous plant in Britain.
Although the entire plant is poisonous, the seeds are especially dangerous to almost anything that comes in contact with the species, especially livestock, companion animals such as dogs, and even humans. Photosensitisation makes giant hogweed a threat to dogs and is a clinical condition in which areas exposed to light that lack protection becomes hyperactive to sunlight because of the present photodynamic agents.
The injury occurs not only when ingested but when the plant’s sap comes into contact with skin or fur. Symptoms include extreme blistering and burning that is extremely painful, as well as wrinkling, cracking and discolouration of the skin. More extreme conditions caused by giant hogweed include extensive scarring and even blindness, with animals specifically at risk for suffering from permanent scarring of the eyes and cloudiness of the corneas, both of which can result in permanent blindness.
After Exposure to Giant Hogweed
The hairy coat of your dog should provide some protection, but areas such as the ears, muzzle and nose can be worst affected.
However, if the pet owner is lucky enough to know that e their dog has eaten giant hogweed, they can react quickly and ideally take steps immediately to reduce the effects of the plant. Start by ensuring to remaining plant matter is n the mouth and by thoroughly washing the skin and fur to ensure sap lingers. Now cover the area affected and keep out of the sunlight. The sap is phototoxic and will cause blisters and burns. If exposed to sunlight, Ensure that you wear protective gloves and immediately wash your hands after handling your dog. Take your dog for immediate medical attention from the Vet.
Your Vet will provide necessary treatments, such as activated charcoal, gastric lavage, wound treatments and corticosteroids.
The prognosis for dogs that receive treatment is good, and the majority will recover in days, although any scarring on the nose and ears could remain, and of course, in some cases, damage to the eyes and lasting blindness may result.
There are several plants that dog owners will already know to be on the lookout for, such as lilies, bulbs and foxgloves, but giant hogweed could be pretty low on some people’s radar. It is important to be able to identify this toxic plant when out walking in the countryside.
Article by Finchley Dog Walker for all your bespoke dog walking needs. Edited by Sue of Tip Dog School – positive dog training finchleyPositive training
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