IN THE GARDEN: Some plants poisonous to dogs and cats

Monday, June 25, 2018 - 15:05

At a garden club meeting a while back, we had a wonderful speaker from a veterinary pet emergency clinic who spoke to us about common house and outside plants that were poisonous for dogs and cats. I have had animals all my life and never have I witnessed them eating anything other than grass. Evidently, the eating of poisonous plants is very common and takes the lives of many animals every year.

The average pet owner is generally not thinking about their pet eating their house or backyard plants until they see that their animals are ill and they take them to the veterinary clinic only to find that they have a very sick animal. Many times the damage to the kidneys, liver, heart arrhythmias or neurological symptoms has already occurred and the animal can die before the cause is identified. Acting quickly is key to helping your pet.

In an attempt to prevent this terrible scenario from taking place, here is what I found out about this subject. The most vulnerable pets for sampling the house and outdoor plants are puppies and kittens. As they learn about their world they are sniffing, chewing and eating everything in sight.

In order to prevent poisoning of flowers and house plants, avoid placing them in your home where pets may be able to access them. Unless you follow your dog or cat around outside and watch them, they can get into trouble. Just like training your dog not to get on the couch, teach them not to eat plants so they know that this is undesirable. This of course is easy to say, but harder to do. It can be done, but it does take consistency like any training.

Common symptoms that are seen in dogs and cats that ingest poisonous plants can include: gastrointestinal tract upset like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and excess salivation or drooling. In some cases tremors or seizures can occur followed by coma and death.

Here is a list of the most common poisonous plants that are toxic to dogs and cats but it is not exhaustive:

Aloe vera, alliums, amaryllis, azalea, rhododendron, baby’s breath, begonia, bleeding heart, carnation, chrysanthemum, clematis, cyclamen, daffodil, dogbane, dieffenbachia, foxglove, gladiola, hostas, hyacinths, hydrangea, lantana, iris, ivy, lilies, lily of the valley, milkweed, mistletoe, monkshood, morning glory, oleander, poinsettia, rose of Sharon, rhubarb, sago palm, tomato, tulip/narcissus, wild and domestic cherry, wisteria, yarrow, yew.

Prevention is always the best medicine. Plan ahead by having hanging baskets where dogs and cats cannot reach and get into trouble. If you have a chewer you are going to need to pay close attention to them when outdoors. Animals that are bored tend to get into trouble with chewing problems. Having chew bones around is helpful when you are away.

Finding a chewed on plant or pieces of the plant would be ideal to help your vet with a diagnosis but of course we cannot always be that lucky.

The purpose of this article is not to discourage you from growing house plants and the other outside plants listed above; it is instead, to make you aware of their potential in making your beloved cat or dog ill. When in doubt you can call the Pet Poison helpline, which is available 24 hours per day; the phone number in North America is 800-213-6680. They charge a fee of $39.00 per incident. Additional information can be found online at There are also poison kits that you can find online and at the pet stores to have on hand. I hope this has answered some of your questions concerning this topic. Have a great weekend and see you around town.

Chris Wood is a certified master gardener from Eagle River who serves as president of the Greater Eagle River Garden Club and was recently elected president of the Alaska Garden Clubs. For questions or column ideas, write to her at [email protected].

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