Plants and mushrooms associated with animal poisoning incidents in South Africa

07 Oct 2021

BACKGROUND : There is extensive literature on animal poisoning from plants and mushrooms worldwide; however, there is limited account of poisoning from South Africa. METHODS : This study sought to describe and provide an overview of animal poison exposures in South Africa. Poisoning episodes reported to the Poisons Information Helpline of the Western Cape, jointly run by the Poisons Information Centres at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital over a period of approximately 2.5 years, from June 2015 to November 2017, were analysed to identify exposure patterns, severity and clinical outcomes. RESULTS : Alien plant species accounted for most cases (n=10) of reported poison exposures. Among the 26 recorded animal poisoning episodes, the dog was the most commonly implicated species (n=24), whereas just two enquiries were related to other animals (one rabbit and one cow) . There were 20 plant cases and 6 mushroom cases (all dogs). There was only one fatal case involving cycad in a dog. CONCLUSION : Features of animal poisoning in South Africa were similar to those in other countries. The reported cases of animals exposed to poisonous plants and mushrooms could represent only a fraction of the actual exposures. Since most reported cases involved taxa that could not be identified to species level, more attention should be paid in case reporting and in animal poisoning prevention, engaging the public to enable people to recognise potentially hazardous plants and reduce the risk of poisoning in animals.