Pet owners know that dogs and cats often have a penchant for eating strange things. Cats often gravitate toward plastic or wool, and many a dog will chew on whatever it can get its chops around. And then there are plants. Whether garden plants, houseplants, plants in the wild, or flowers from the florist–plants can provide a tasty and tempting diversion for animals, one that can be at odds with your pet’s health.
In order to prevent poisoning by cut flowers or house plants, avoid placing toxic ones in your home where pets may be able to access them. Or better yet, avoid buying flowers and plants that are known to be toxic. Outside is trickier, especially if your dog or cat has a wide range to roam.
For dogs, the animal science department at Cornell University suggests adding bran flakes to his food or switching her diet to one higher in vegetable fibers to deter cravings for vegetation. The only other thing to do is to watch your dog’s behavior when walking outside, and try to prevent them from munching on vegetation unless you know it is harmless. When you see symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, abnormal urine, salivation, weakness, and any other abnormal condition, take your pet to the veterinarian because he may be poisoned.
You can use this list, which has been compiled using information provided by Cornell University and the ASPCA, as a guide to what plants and flowers to keep your eyes open for. The list is by no means exhaustive, there are a number of other toxic plants, but this covers the top offenders. (For a complete list, visit the ASPCA website.)
Aloe vera Great for burns, toxic to cats and dogs. Who knew? If you keep an aloe plant on hand for burns, make sure to keep it out of reach for your pets. • Symptoms: Vomiting, depression, diarrhea, anorexia, tremors, change in urine color.
Amaryllis Pretty, common as a garden ornamental, and a very popular potted bulb for the holidays…and toxic to both cats and dogs. Be careful with the bulbs, they contain the most toxins. • Symptoms: Vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, tremors.
Azalea/Rhodedendron Not only toxic to cats and dogs, this popular garden staple is also dangerous for horses, goats and sheep–and ingestion of just a few leaves can cause serious problems. • Symptoms: Acute digestive upset, excessive drooling, loss of appetite, frequent bowel movements/diarrhea, colic, depression, weakness, loss of coordination, stupor, leg paralysis, weak heart rate and recumbency for 2 or more days; at this point, improvement may be seen or the animal may become comatose and die.
Baby’s Breath This sweet filler of many a floral arrangement seems innocent enough, but not so innocuous when it comes to your pet’s digestion. • Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea.
Begonia This popular garden and container plant is toxic to both dogs and cats. The tubers are the most toxic part. • Symptoms: Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
Carnations The carnation isn’t the most poisonous of the bunch, but it’s ubiquity in floral arrangements makes it one to keep your eye out for. • Symptoms: Mild gastrointestinal signs, mild dermatitis.
Castor Bean Not in everyone’s garden or bouquet, but castor bean plant is a popular landscaping plant used in many parks and public spaces. Watch out for it on those dog walks. • Symptoms: abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.
Chrysanthemum The smell of chrysanthemum is enough to keep me away, but dogs and cats may still be drawn to it. It’s not likely to cause death, but it is a popular plant and can cause quite a bit of discomfort. In certain cases, depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed. • Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, dermatitis.
Cyclamen These pretty flowers are popular in the garden and in pots–and they are toxic to both cats and dogs. The highest concentration of the toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. • Symptoms: gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.
Daffodil Most people aren’t going to let their pet chow down on pretty daffodils, but who knows what may happen when you turn your back. These harbingers of spring are toxic to cats and dogs; the bulbs being the most toxic part. • Symptoms: Vomiting, salvation, diarrhea; large ingestions cause convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors and cardiac arrhythmias.
Gladiola Although gladiolus are great in the garden, they are more popularly used in floral arrangements–since it is the corm (bulb) that is most toxic to dogs and cats it may not present much of a problem, but still… • Symptoms: Salivation, vomiting, drooling, lethargy, diarrhea.
Hosta Many hosts are unbothered by dogs and cats, but the plant is toxic to both–so make sure your pet doesn’t have a taste for them. • Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, depression.
Ivy (California Ivy, Branching Ivy, Glacier Ivy, Needlepoint Ivy, Sweetheart Ivy, English Ivy) Ivy foliage is more toxic than its berries. • Symptoms: Vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, diarrhea.
Lilies So lovely, so fragrant, so dangerous to kitties! Members of the Lilium family are considered to be highly toxic to cats, even when very small portions are ingested. Many types of lily (Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Easter, Stargazer, Casa Blanca) can cause kidney failure in cats. Curiously, lilies are not toxic to dogs. • Symptoms: Kidney failure.
Milkweed For the sake of the monarchs I really hope you will plant milkweed in your garden, but…dangit, it’s quite toxic to dogs and cats. (You can help monarchs in other ways, though: First Aid for Butterflies.) • Symptoms: Vomiting, profound depression, weakness, anorexia, and diarrhea are common; may be followed by seizures, difficulty breathing, rapid, weak pulse, dilated pupils, kidney or liver failure, coma, respiratory paralysis and death.
Morning Glory It somehow doesn’t surprise me that morning glory can cause hallucinations–and although cats on catnip are cute, cats and dogs experiencing rubber reality? Not so much. • Symptoms: Gastrointestinal upset, agitation, tremors, disorientation, ataxia, anorexia, hallucinations.
Oleander Oleander is pretty, and poisonous–it can affect cats, dogs, and even horses. All parts contain a highly toxic cardiac glycoside (much like digitoxin) and can cause a number of problems. • Symptoms: Colic, diarrhea (possibly bloody), sweating, incoordination, shallow/difficult breathing, muscle tremors, recumbency, and possibly death from cardiac failure.
Poinsettia “Beware the poinsettia,” pet-owners have been told ad nauseam. But guess what, they are totally over-rated in toxicity! The ubiquitous holiday decoration may cause discomfort, but not the alarming panic that has been described. Read Can Poinsettias Kill Your Cat? for more about the Poinsettia myth. • Symptoms: Irritating to the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing mild vomiting.
Pothos Not the most toxic plant on the list, but it’s such a popular houseplant that is should be noted that cats and dogs can both have adverse reactions to chewing or ingesting it. • Symptoms: Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
Sago Palm If you live in a temperate region, chances are that you have sago palms around. They are a very popular landscaping plant, and also do double duty as a popular bonsai choice. They are apparently very tasty to animals, and unfortunately highly toxic–all parts are poisonous, but especially the seeds. • Symptoms: Vomiting, melena, icterus, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, coagulopathy, liver damage, liver failure, death.
Tomato Plant Is there anything better than the smell of tomato plants on your hands after you’ve picked fresh tomatoes? Not so for your dog or cat. Although tomato plants probably won’t prove lethal for your pet, they can provide a good dose of discomfort. • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, inappetence, severe gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, drowsiness, CNS depression, confusion, behavioral change, weakness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate.
Tulip/Narcissus It’s the bulb of the tulip and narcissus plants that have the highest concentration of toxins. This means: if you have a dog that digs, be cautious. Or, if you are forcing bulbs indoors, make sure they they are out of reach. • Symptoms: Intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.
Yew The bark and leaves of this very popular evergreen provided the basis for the cancer-treatment drug, paclitaxel–but general ingestion of any part of the tree (except the flesh of the berry) can be very dangerous to animals. Horses have an especially low tolerance to yew. • Symptoms: Central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.
The following provides a list of some of the interventions that your veterinarian may ask you to do, they may also request that you bring your dog in ASAP.
To induce vomiting, give your pet 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (1 tablespoon per 15 pounds of the dog’s body weight) with an eye dropper, syringe, or turkey baster by dribbling the liquid onto the back of his tongue or into his cheek pocket until swallowed. Collect any vomit and take it, along with the poison container or other substance that you think you dog may have ingested and take it to the veterinarian
To dilute caustic poisons such as pine oils, detergents, bleaches, and swimming pool chemicals, feed your dog large quantities of water, milk, or egg whites. Activated charcoal (or even burned toast) may be recommended to absorb insect repellents like DEET.
To remove absorbed poisons...absorbed poisons are substances that get on your pet’s paws and coat and are absorbed through the skin. Remember your dog walks, on lies on and licks the floor - don't use chemical based cleaners to clean floors, other horizontal or vertical surfaces that your dog comes into contact with. Absorbed poisoning can happen through ingestion when the animal grooms himself. For oil-based toxins (petroleum products) use a gentle dish washing liquid like 'Dawn'. Dust or vacuum powdery poisons away because water can activate certain toxins. If the poison is in your dog’s eye, carefully flush the eye with water or a sterile saline solution. To remove toxins from a dog's paws you can use the following Foot Soak Recipe...
Iodine is non-toxic for dogs (but should not be ingested, just used topically) and is anti-fugal and anti-viral. To remove toxins (herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides) from the surface of your dog’s paws - this soak can also be used to reduce itchy, inflamed, and other wise irritated paws… • Fill the container you are using with warm water; • Add enough iodine to make the water turn the colour of ice tea; • Have your dog stand in or otherwise keep their paw in the the water/iodine solution for 30 seconds • Then pat your dog’s paws dry.
For snakebites, carry your dog if at all possible, to prevent increased circulation of venom throughout his body via walking. Get him to an animal emergency centre ASAP.
First Aid Treatment
For insect bites Options: • If your dog's nose or face is swelling, or multiple stings have been experienced you can administer 1 mg of Diphenhydramine (i.e. Benadryl), an antihistamine, per pound of your dog’s body weight; • Rather than use a chemical-based antihistamine (i.e. Benedryl) you can use nature's antihistime - Quercetin; • For calming pain and inflammation due to a bite there are many natural options, for topical treatments - for example..: ◦ 100% Aloe Vera juice or gel; ◦ Arnica Montana; ◦ Camomile; ◦ Calendula salve; ◦ Golden Seal; ◦ Feverfew; ◦ Marjoram; ◦ Witch hazel is a good choice; • For calming the irritation resulting from insect bites, to speed healing and prevent infection; ◦ Organic, raw (natural) unpasturized honey speeds healing - apply topically; ◦ Colloidal silver - apply topically ◦ Organic unpasturized apple cider vinegar; • Applying a cold pack to the bite can alleviate swelling: • Immediately seek professional medical help if you detect breathing problems.
If You Think Your Dog Is Suffering From Poisoning (food, chemicals, insect/snake bites)
If you think your dog is suffering from symptoms related to poisoning from food, plants or chemicals call your veterinarian or contact a pet poison control centre right away.