1. Rinse your pet’s mouth with milk, as this is believed to dissolve calcium oxalate crystals and reduce injury to the mucous membranes.
  2. Do not induce vomiting.
  3. If your pet has any difficulty breathing or any evidence of swelling around the tongue, jaw or neck, seek immediate veterinary attention.
  4. Asymptomatic animals may be monitored at home after consulting with your veterinarian.


Dumb cane, mother in law’s tongue, leopard lily




Mucosal irritation appears within minutes to hours of exposure.

  • Hypersalivation
  • Gagging
  • Pain in the oral cavity
  • Redness and swelling of the lips
  • Ulcers in the mouth/on the tongue
  • Swelling of the tongue (may be so severe as to prevent breathing)
  • Swelling of the throat (larynx/pharynx)
  • Ulcers in the eye (corneal ulcers)
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Distended stomach (in the case of ingesting much of the plant)


Dieffenbachia initially causes mucosal irritation from its needle shaped crystals which embed themselves in the mucosa. These crystals are coated in inflammatory substances which perpetuate pain and tissue injury. Dieffenbachia can cause death from asphyxiation.


Veterinary care may involve anti-inflammatories and in cases of severe swelling of the throat or breathing difficulty, tracheostomy. Other treatments include gastroprotectants, assisted feeding while the oral cavity heals and antibiotics if your pet develops aspiration pneumonia.


Loretti AP, da Silva Ilha MR & Ribeiro RE (2003) Accidental fatal poisoning of a dog by Dieffenbachia picta (dumb cane). Veterinary and Human Toxicology 45(5):233-9.

McKenzie RA (2007) Poisoning of companion animals by garden and house plants in Queensland: a veterinary practice survey. Australian Veterinary Journal 85(11):467-468.

Peterson K, Beymer J, Rudloff E & O’Brien M (2009) Airway obstruction in a dog after Dieffenbachia ingestion. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care 19(6):635-639.