From January to April, dogs are at risk of Karaka Berry poisoning.
Karaka berries come from the Karaka tree. This tree grows roughly 15 meters and has dark green leaves. The berries are distinctive, being bright orange in colour. The berries are oval and grow between 2 and 4cm long. Karaka trees are found all over New Zealand, but particularly in the North Island, and are a food source for our native Kereru.
Karaka berries are bright and therefore attractive to dogs to eat. The reason Karaka berries are toxic is because they contain both a strong alkaloid poison called Kerakin. The berries remain toxic even if they have fallen from the tree a long time ago.
If you see your dog eat Karaka berries you need to seek urgent veterinary attention. If ingested within the last one to three hours a vet can attempt to make your pet sick, bringing up the berries and significantly reducing the chances of toxicity.
Karaka berry ingestion toxicity can take 24-48 hours to show clinical signs. This is important as you may not notice your dog eat the berries when out for a walk.
The sings of toxicity include:
- Disorientation or dizziness
Treatment involves, intra-venous fluids, anti-nausea medication, gastro protectants and activated charcoal to help bind the toxins. If seizures occur then this can be controlled with medications.
The disease can progress quickly and even lead to death if not treated. Once patients are showing the signs above they require intensive veterinary treatment often for at least a couple of days to help them recover, and sometimes even with medical support; there are still dogs who sadly pass away due to the severity of their symptoms.
It is important to be vigilant on walks and look out for karaka trees. Avoid any area where you know karaka trees are situated. If you cannot avoid going past an area where karaka trees are, put your dog on a short lead and keep them by your side at all times to reduce the chances of accidental ingestion. Keep a toy or treat with you to keep their attention on you whilst you walk through this high risk area. Make sure your friends and family are aware of the risks of Karaka berries if they are taking your dog for a walk on your behalf.