India Rubber PlantThe Indian rubber tree (Ficus elastica) grows throughout the tropics in Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. It has become an invasive species in many parts of the world. The trees can grow in both rural and urban environments, frequently in symbiosis with human habitation (shrubs or small trees within housing areas). Where it is native, the Indian rubber tree is valued for its economic uses and is often used as a shade tree.
Some of the common names of this plant include ficus, rubber fig, Elastica fig, rubber tree, India rubber bush, or simply rubber plant. The name "rubber" can refer to either natural latex found in the sap of most rubber plants or man-made "vulcanized" rubber materials.
The leaves are large, wide, and very distinctive with a palmate manner in which they unfurl from a single point. The tree can grow to the height of 30 feet with spreading branches that form a dense crown that provides good shade. In cultivation, the tree is considered a shrub and grows to 8 feet tall with a similar spread.
The small flowers are white, hairy, and almost scentless. Fruits are yellow when ripe, pea-sized, and edible.
The Indian rubber plant is a toxic tree closely related to the fig tree and ficus, which all contain two toxins; ficin and ficusin. These two poisons can make your dog seriously ill and cause a nasty burning rash where the sap comes in contact with the skin.
In dogs, the toxins from this plant are primarily absorbed into the bloodstream through latex-gloved hands of veterinarians or groomers that have not washed thoroughly enough after handling this tree's leaves or bark. Even minute particles of the sap can cause blisters when in contact with your dog's skin. If there are any breaks in the skin, severe symptoms are more likely to occur.
The symptoms of this internal poisoning include seizures, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite and dehydration. The toxins depress the white blood cell count which is responsible for fighting infections. Without treatment, the dog may die.
However, the initial symptoms of this poisoning are more likely to cause irritation and redness of the skin which develops into painful blisters that will not break. The affected areas - usually on a leg or above an eye - become extremely itchy. You can tell your dog is itching these areas by its repetitive licking or chewing at the same spot.