Dear veterinary clients of mine shared a story of how an acquaintance of theirs lost both of her dogs to castor bean poisoning here in the Inland Empire. Every dog owner is sensitive to poinsettias, mistletoe, yesterday, today, and tomorrow and lily toxic plants but few know that here in our home area is a plant far more toxic- the castor bean plant. The toxin in the fruit bean of this plant is the most toxic chemical known to man, ricin,-the very toxin dust mailed to our last two presidents and other members of congress by radicals on both sides of the political spectrum.
The Castor Bean Plant
As you can see by the picture, the castor bean is a lovely plant that has become a staple of landscaping in southern California homes. It has also become a very common plant in our wilderness and hiking areas. Originally it was cultivated to produce Castor Oil, a potent constipation remedy. The pods of this beautiful plant emit an odor that is very attractive to animals, especially dogs. The pods contain a bean that the animals readily eat. Only 8 beans are lethal to a medium-sized dog.
Symptoms and Treatment of Castor Bean Toxicity
Symptoms of mild exposure are generally loss of appetite, excessive thirst, vomiting, and diarrhea 12-48 hours after eating the beans. Trembling, loss of coordination, seizures, coma, and death can follow for dogs eating the toxic quantity of beans.
There is no antidote for ricin and supportive care with intravenous fluids is the only option for dogs ingesting sub-lethal doses of the beans.
Castor bean plants are a staple plant in our SoCal landscaping, wilderness, and recreational trails. Make sure your pet is leashed on all excursions to avoid ingestion of castor beans or other toxic or unsafe materials.