Karaka Berry Toxicity

Karaka Berries can be very toxic to dogs. Be aware of the signs!

by 
Dr Deborah Samson
November 8, 2017

From January to April the Karaka tree green  berries have turned orange and are falling off trees.   These berries, although loved by our native Kereru can be highly toxic to dogs. Toxicity is variable but they can remain toxic in older berries for a long time.  Unfortunately several dogs have already died after eating Karaka berries in previous years.

The karaka tree can grow up to 15 meters and has thick dark leaves. The orange fruit  ranges from 2.5-4cm long, making it very  distinctive. It can be found all over New Zealand but in particular the North Island.

Symptoms can include:

  • Weakness,
  • Vomiting,
  • Confusion,
  • Back leg paralysis,
  • Convulsions
  • All these can lead to death.

Symptoms can often be delayed by 24-48 hours.

Treatment:

If you see your animal eating karaka berries, your vet may be able to induce vomiting  before the toxin has time to work. Unfortunately most owners do  not see when the berry is consumed and only witness the symptoms following.

Tests recommended by your vet may include blood tests , blood clotting time, urinalysis, chest radiographs, abdominal ultrasound and toxoplasma/neospora/lead titres.  These tests help rule  out disease processes, giving similar symptoms, which are diagnosable, treatable and common.  Unfortunately there is  no such thing as a “tox screen” that has comprehensive results.

Supportive care will be started straight away by your vet while waiting for results, giving your dog the best chance of survival. Treatment may include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, antacids, anti-nausea medication, pain relief, enemas, activated charcoal, sedation and/or muscle relaxant medication for example.  Some dogs can take weeks to recover fully.

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