Pet Articles: Wellness

Plants That Are Poisonous to Dogs and Cats

After a harsh winter, nothing is better than waking up and smelling spring blossoms. Notice we said, smell, not eat. Try telling that to your pet. Even though spring botanicals are a sensorial reward after winter’s whiteout, some flowers and plants can be toxic to dogs and cats. As you begin to plant, or simply admire neighbors’ flowers, keep your pets in mind and steer them clear of the greenery.

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large dog sitting among purple flowers and other foliage

Doggone gardening

If you garden, it may seem you and your dog are working at cross-purposes. You plant the flowers, he digs them up.

Digging is one thing, but if plants have become his daily treat you need to fence him out. The skin at the bottom of bulb flowers (think tulips, daffodils, hyacinths) can be very harmful to canines.

Eating large quantities of flower bulbs before or after they’ve been planted can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog has turned your flowerbed into a 24-hour buffet, more serious complications can occur: rapid heart rate and breathing, obstructions, even cardiac arrhythmias.

Watch out for fertilizers

This is one time when organic may not be the best choice. Organic fertilizers are often made of bone, blood or feather meal — aromas that are extremely appealing to dogs. Canines will sniff them out and ingest the fertilizer with the bulb for a double dose of toxicity.

If your dog eats organic fertilizers it can obstruct his stomach and cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis when consumed in large quantities.

Tick off the right medication on your spring shopping list

Now that the season of bugs has begun (payment for all the sunshine and flowers), you’ll be protecting your pet with flea and tick medication. However, never use the dog’s medication on cats. Felines don’t metabolize drugs as well as canines, so even though the medication may be safe for dogs, it could cause seizures in your cat. Read labels carefully and always use cat-specific flea and tick medication.

This isn’t catnip

If you named your cat Lily, hopefully it was to honor a favorite friend or relative, not the plant. While some species of lilies are safe for felines, many common spring varieties, such as tiger, day, Easter, and red lilies, are highly poisonous.

Tiger lilies bloom first in many areas of the country, which may tempt you to cut a few stems to bring these trumpeters of spring into your house.

Resist the urge, because the pollen, stems and leaves of tiger lilies can cause severe kidney failure in cats. If your cat even laps water from a tiger lily’s vase, she can show signs of poisoning: fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. Amounts as small as two or three petals or leaves can result in kidney failure.

If your feline is seen eating any part of a lily, bring her and the flower to a veterinarian immediately so they can treat the early stages of toxicity.

Lilies of the Valley don’t cause kidney failure but can still lower your cat’s heart rate and lead to cardiac arrhythmias. That’s because they contain cardiac glycosides which cause similar symptoms to foxglove or digitalis. Cats or dogs exposed to these plants should be thoroughly examined and treated by a veterinarian. Amaryllis, another plant that’s popular around Easter, like lilies, can also cause vomiting, gastrointestinal problems, increased salivating, and tremors.

Topical plants

Now that several states have legalized marijuana and many people grow their own, pot plants are more prevalent. Whether Cannabis is harmful to humans may still be debatable, but it’s definitely NOT good for our furry companions. If cats or dogs ingest marijuana, their central nervous system can be depressed; they may drool excessively, have gastrointestinal problems, a rapid heart rate, and possible seizures leading to a coma.

Stay safe

Common gastrointestinal signs of toxicity, such as vomiting and diarrhea, aren’t always immediate. If you know your cat or dog has made a meal of flowers, bring them to the veterinarian immediately, especially if you’re not sure which plant was ingested.

Symptoms of poisoning may not occur until a few days after the incident, so you want to be sure you’ve nipped any health issues in the bud.

Though you and your best pals may have endured months of cabin fever, be careful when you finally get outside to celebrate spring. Watch where you walk and exercise your pets, and keep an eye out for toxic plants.

Fenced yards and canine parks are best for doggie playdates, especially if there aren’t a lot of plants around.

If you love flowers and gardening, don’t hang up the hoe. Barricade your plants so your pets can’t access them and dig up (worse, eat) all your hard work.  

Of course, if your dog or cat ingests anything suspicious, call your veterinarian or the pet Animal Poison Control hotline: (888) 426-4435 immediately. A consultation fee may apply.

If possible, try to identify the plant, or have product labels or packaging handy; the faster you can accurately identify the toxin, the better.