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Toxic Plants for Pets – is your home safe?

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Pet-owners know that dogs and cats often have a penchant for eating strange things. Cats may 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 dog to the veterinarian because it may be poisoned.  You can use this list, which has been compiled using information provided by Cornell University and the RSPCA, 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.

Angels Trumpet – all parts of plant are toxic, especially the seeds

Asparagus Fern – symptoms range due to a wide variety of toxin

Azalea – Paralysis of the muscles, depression of the nervous system

Brunfelsia – perhaps the most dangerous plant for dogs. If they eat the plant, especially the fruit which comes after flowering, they may die

Bulbs (eg. Daffodils, jonquils, tulips, nerines, Spider lilies and Crocus) – oral irritation, upset stomach, kidney failure, hyperactivity, lethargy, shock

Buttercup (Ranunculus) – stomach irritation, diarrhoea and convulsions

Chrysanthemum – rash after contact

Cycads – leaves and nuts are highly toxic when eaten. Symptoms can be irregular stiffness when walking, liver and tissue damage, and paralysis

Dumb Cane and Elephant’s Ear – upset stomach, oral irritation, asphyxiation, tremors, seizures, difficulty balancing

Ivy – symptoms range due to a wide variety of toxins

Lantana (berries) – gastro-intestinal irritation, muscular weakness and slow circulation

Lillies – all parts are quite toxic to cats if eaten. Causes inflammation of the stomach, progresses to acute renal failure and may be fatal if left untreated

Stephanotis (Madagascar jasmine) – dogs can die if they eat the seed pods of stephanotis

Oleander – nausea, depression, bloody diarrhea, weakened and irregular paralysis

Paspalum – seeds are sticky and can cause irritation, hair matting, and dermatitis

Poinsettiea (leaves and stems) – diarrhoea, abdominal cramping, Sap can cause irritation, and blindness if rubbed in eyes

Privet – bloody vomiting, diarrhoea, irritation of the digestive tract and nervous system

Sago Palm/Japanese fern – potentially fatal

Wandering Jew – Dermatitis

White Cedar (fruit) – contractions, difficulty walking, coma

Wisteria – severe vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea

Some fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices can also cause problems in pets: Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Shallots – cause anaemia – recommended to not feed onions in any form

Aloe Vera – diarrhoea

Apple Seeds – various symptoms

Apricots and Peaches – kernels contain cyanide

Cherry Tree – shock, gum inflammation, dilated pupils, rapid breathing

Chocolate – vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tremors, seizures and possible coma. (the toxic ingredients in chocolate are Theobromine and caffeine)

Eggplant – upset stomach, heart failure, drooling, lethargy

Mushrooms – various symptoms

Nutmeg – hallucinogen

Nuts – do not break down in stomach, can have difficulty passing

Potatoes and Tomatoes (sprouts, vines, unripe tubers) – excessive drooling, abdominal pain

Rhubarb – vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle cramps, convulsions, coma

Rosemary – stomach irritation, diarrhoea

Seven year bean – raw highly toxic, cooked non toxic

If you think your pet has ingested a toxic plant, it may be a medical emergency so please call an RSPCA veterinary hospital or your local veterinarian.

WARNING: A special warning must be made regarding lily toxicity in cats. Lily toxicity is an extremely devastating toxicity which, despite the best treatment from vets, causes many cats to die. Asian, Day, Easter, Glory, Japanese Show, Peace, Red, Rubrum, Stargazer, Tiger and Wood lilies are all toxic to cats. Even ingesting the smallest part of any of the lily plant may cause intoxication and death. Signs of ingestion and poisoning include lethargy, depression and vomiting. If untreated, acute kidney or renal failure may occur. If you suspect that your cat may have ingested part of a lily and is showing signs of lily toxicity, please visit your Vet or Animal Emergency Hospital immediately.

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