Spring has finally sprung — but some of the flowers and
plants growing in your garden or blooming in your vases could cause serious
harm to your pet.
As a veterinary toxicologist for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control
Center and a gardening enthusiast, I often give advice on planting pet-safe
gardens — and with the planting season in full force, it’s important for all
dog and cat owners to be extra vigilant about keeping dangerous plants out of
their homes and gardens. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested a toxic
plant, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 888-426-4435 and contact your veterinarian. It’s
always better to be safe than sorry.
You may be tempted to decorate your
home with a beautiful bouquet of lilies, but doing so could spell trouble for
your cat. Members of the true lily (Lilium) and day lily (Hemerocallis)
families have been shown to cause acute kidney failure in felines. Some examples of true
lilies include Easter lilies (L. longiflorum),
tiger lilies (L. tigrinum) and Japanese Show lilies (L. speciosum). Even a small amount
of exposure (a few bites on a leaf, ingestion of pollen, etc.) may result in
kidney failure. Cats often vomit within a few hours of exposure and become lethargic.
Usually one of the first plants to bloom in spring,
daffodils (Narcissus spp.), which are
also known as jonquils, paper whites and narcissus, contain lycorine and other
alkaloids that can be poisonous for dogs and cats. The toxins are mostly in the plant’s
bulb and, if ingested, can lead to vomiting, salivation and diarrhea. If your
animal ingests large amounts of the plant, signs of toxicity may include cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), convulsions/tremors and
low blood pressure.
Sago palms (Cycads,
Macrozamia andZamia spp.) are often
outdoor ornamental plants in warm climates or houseplants in cooler climes.
Ingestion of this highly toxic plant can cause liver failure and death in dogs and
cats. All parts of the plant are toxic, with the seeds having the highest
concentration of toxin. All it takes is one to two seeds to cause clinical signs and possibly death in a dog. Vomiting
usually begins within 24 hours, and animals may eventually become depressed and start to
seizure. This plant is one of the most toxic, with a mortality rate of around 50 percent.
Cardiac Glycoside Plants
Plants containing cardiac glycosides
include oleander (Nerium oleander),
foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and lily of
the valley (Convallaria majalis). Glycosides
can slow down the heartbeat and even stop it. These are typically outdoor
plants, but the popular and beloved lily of the valley is a common bouquet
flower for weddings and holiday gatherings.
Most of the toxins in tulips (Liliaceae spp.) are concentrated in the bulbs, so if your dog is a
digger or your cat frequents your flower beds, you should be especially cautious about keeping this flower out of your
garden. Signs of toxicity can include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling and depression.
Begonias (Begonia spp.) are popular plants, because
they are generally easy to grow, can thrive in many conditions and produce
gorgeous blooms. But if you’re a dog or cat owner, begonias may need to stay out of your
garden. Most of the toxins are concentrated in the tuber or underground stem of the plant
and can cause serious burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips;
excessive drooling; vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
Also known as devil’s trumpet, the Jimson
weed (Datura stramonium) can be
moderately toxic to cats and dogs and typically infests farmland and pastures. Accidental ingestion can cause restlessness,
drunken walking and respiratory failure.
plants containing grayanotoxins (andromedotoxins) can cause vomiting, seizures and
cardiac arrest. Sources include rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron spp.),
laurels (Kalmia latifolia and Leucothoe davisiae) and Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica). These
are typically outdoor plants, but they can be highly toxic for both dogs and cats
and deserve extra caution.
You may dream of frolicking through a
meadow of buttercups (Ranunculus spp.)
with your dog or cat, but should your animal nibble on this flower, it could lead to vomiting, diarrhea,
anorexia, excessive salivation and a drunken gait.
A member of the Liliaceae family, the hyacinth (Hyacinthus
orientalis) contains dangerous alkaloids that can cause vomiting, diarrhea,
depression and tremors in cats and dogs.