Your pet, especially if it’s a cat, might like to chew on plants. If pets are allowed unsupervised access to the outdoors, their natural playfulness and curiosity might bring them into contact with many different plants, including harmful or poisonous ones. If you have a fenced-in yard, you can take steps to identify and remove any harmful plants. Although some parts of a plant might be more toxic than are others, it’s safest to remove the whole plant and perhaps transplant it away from the area where your pets can explore. Obviously, this works better for dogs than for cats.
Top 11 Dangerous Plants for Pets
Should your pet ingest a dangerous plant or exhibit any of these symptoms, call you vet or you animal emergency center immediately. The Pet Poison Helpline has compiled the following list of common poisonous plants:
Autumn Crocus – A member of the Liliaceae family containing the poison colchicine, which causes internal bleeding, organ damage, severe vomiting and even death. Symptoms may be delayed for several days.
Azalea – Related to rhododendrons, it can cause diarrhea, vomiting and drooling, and possibly a deadly coma.
Cyclamen – A seasonal flowering plant with poisonous roots that can induce severe vomiting and death.
Kalanchoe – A succulent plant that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and heart problems.
Lilies – The most dangerous varieties can cause kidney damage to cats. The vet will induce vomiting and/or administer certain materials to bind to the poison, along with providing intravenous fluid therapy.
Oleander – A popular plant with toxic leaves and flowers that cause vomiting, depressed pulse and possibly death.
Dieffenbachia – Can cause vomiting, nausea, drooling, an irritated mouth and make swallowing difficult.
Daffodils – These popular plants contain the alkaloid poison lycorine that causes diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, abdominal pain, and heart or breathing problems.
Lily of the Valley – Contains glycosides that can produce seizures, heart problems, diarrhea and vomiting.
Sago Palm – A popular warm-climate plant, it can cause bloody stool, vomiting, damage to the liver and stomach, and possibly death.
Tulips and Hyacinths – The bulbs contain toxic alkaloids that dogs may dig up and ingest, causing vomiting, drooling and diarrhea. Large doses can also lead to heart and breathing problems.
Of course, this list is but a small sampling of the hundreds of poisonous plants that can threaten your pet. Your vet will take the steps necessary (and possible) to reverse or minimize the damage caused by plant poisons.
If you see your pet eating a plant that may be poisonous, take these actions immediately:
1. Get the pet away from the plant and remove any plant material attached to the skin or hair.
2. Call your vet or the Pet Poison Hotline.
3. If the plant material seems to be irritating the animal’s skin, wash with warm water and non-irritating soap.
4. Take a photo of the plant.
5. Bring a sample of the plant with you when you bring the pet to the vet.
6. Collect a vomit specimen for the vet.
The Veterinarian’s Role
The most important information is the identity of the plant your pet ingested. If you don’t know it, your vet will attempt to identify it from the sample you supply. The vet will examine your pet and, if appropriate, administer an antidote or other treatment, such as activated charcoal and stomach-protecting medication, right away. The vet may order a series of diagnostic tests to check for organ damage and other adverse effects caused by the poison.
The pet may need supportive care, including intravenous injections and anti-inflammatory medicines. Unfortunately, some plants, such as lilies, can be fatal to your pet despite timely care. In other cases, your pet might experience an extended recovery time. You may have to administer a special diet and regular medication — your vet will lay out all the details for you.
Other Poisonous Threats
Beyond poisonous plants, your cat or dog might encounter poisons in your home. You can help prevent this in several ways:
• Place vermin bait where your pet can’t reach it.
• Keep all drugs in closed cabinets or drawers — never leave them in easy reach of your curious pet.
• Chocolate can harm pets — don’t let them have any.
• Keep your cleaning items, cigarettes, alcohol and coffee grounds away from you pets.
• Talk to your vet before using a flea product, especially if your pet’s health is already compromised.
• Don’t use dog-only products on cats, and vice versa.
• If you store gasoline, antifreeze or other toxic substances in your garage, make sure they are secure from pet access.
• If you treat your lawn with chemicals, don’t let you pets out until the grass dries.
Finally, always consult with you vet whenever your pet develops any unexplained symptoms, and make sure you schedule your pet for regular checkups. Sensible precautions can help your pet live a long, happy life.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.