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Dear Daisy Dog

I bought a beautiful beaded necklace during my travels in the Southwest, but when my best friend, a veterinary student, saw it, she advised me to throw it out because it could kill my dog. She said the decorative beads, castor beans, can kill pets. Is she right?

Daisy Responds

Even one bean from a castor bean plant, also called the castor oil plant or wonder tree, can kill a dog. The highly toxic bean contains ricin, a poison that is released when the outer covering of the bean is ruptured, as by chewing.

The entire castor bean plant contains ricin, but the concentration is highest in the beans.

Once ingested, the bean causes irritation of the mouth and throat, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, excessive drinking and urination, weakness, trembling, loss of coordination -– and, without treatment, death.

If the dog is treated quickly, before clinical signs begin, the prognosis is good.

Assuming you put your jewelry away the moment you take it off -– and keep it in your jewelry box, safely out of your dog’s reach -– you may feel comfortable retaining your castor bean necklace.

But if you’re likely to remove the necklace and set it on your dresser, you should follow your friend’s advice and give it away. Before you do, confirm that it really is made of castor beans by looking at the photo on Wikipedia under “ricin.”

Then congratulate your veterinary school friend on her keen eye and commitment to keeping your dog safe. It sounds like she’ll be a terrific veterinarian.

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