Protecting Pets From the Allure of Toxic Plants

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Summer is almost here and who isn’t thrilled at the prospect of outdoor adventures and lazy backyard barbecues? Many of us who love our pets make sure we do everything we can to keep Fido safe while enjoying the great outdoors; we wouldn’t dream of letting our best pet friend dive off that dock without their handy dandy safety vest on and all four-legged hikers remain leashed at all times. Nonetheless, hidden dangers abound.

Despite our best efforts to protect our pets from accidental injury or illness, toxic plants can still pose a major hazard to our pet’s health. You can dramatically reduce the likelihood of letting your pet become a sad statistic by recognizing common toxic plants in your area and making sure your dog (or cat) stays away from them.

Poisonous Plants

A poisonous plant is one that causes your pet to become ill – or even die – by coming into contact with or eating it. Based on a pet’s size, age, the toxicity of the plant, and how much may be ingested, it’s difficult to know which plants will cause an upset stomach versus which may cause a fatal reaction.

Plants that are not toxic to people, like the hibiscus, those in the Easter lily family, mistletoe, and Dieffenbachia may cause medical problems in pets, such as renal failure, irregular heartbeats, cardiac shock and even death. Other examples of toxic plants include aloe, apple trees, azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, azalea, rhododendron and Japanese yew.

Signs of Poisoning

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, signs of poisoning in a dog include but are not limited to: vomiting, drooling, nausea, weakness, diarrhea, foul breath or odor coming from the mouth, unwillingness to eat, coughing, excessive drinking, urination problems, pale or jaundiced gums, accelerated heartbeat, collapse, abnormal behavior, convulsions and death.

If your pooch does end up making an afternoon snack of some toxic greens, immediately remove the plant from its mouth and gently rinse out their mouth with clean water. Try to identify the plant your pet ate and call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) and/or your veterinarian right away. Carefully watch your furry family member for excessive or foamy salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling around the mouth, eyes, or paws or any other unusual behavior or physical changes. Providing a detailed history of symptoms to your veterinarian is critical.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.

Common Hazardous Plants

Some of us may not be surprised to learn that plants such as marijuana are toxic to pets, but what about those plants which we’d never considered?

One such plant is commonplace, especially as we enter summer: The tomato plant. They are great when added to your summertime salad, but not so much for your pampered pooch. Help them steer clear to avoid symptoms like weakness, gastrointestinal problems, drowsiness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate, and confusion.

Next up might just be the most surprising, since many folks have been using it for medicinal purposes for the last 5,000 years or more. Whether it’s applied as a topical treatment for a sunburn, cut, rash or blister, or turned into a gel and used to treat heartburn, an aloe vera plant is a very familiar sight in many homes. If your barking buddy gets a taste of aloe, look for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and general central nervous system depression.

Another very common plant your pet might encounter is English ivy. Whether this fast-growing plant is trained on a trellis or grown as ground cover, there’s virtually no place in the United States where ivy can’t be found. But if your pampered pet ingests it, look for vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation and drooling, as well as abdominal pain.

Also a familiar sight for many in the Spring, is the beautiful Daffodil. While not native to North America, they nevertheless can be found in gardens and flower arrangements everywhere. With Mother’s Day literally days away, be sure to keep bouquets of these popular perennials away from your pampered pet though, as they can cause intestinal spasms, low blood pressure, salivation, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, and even cardiac arrhythmia.

Frequently used for everything from weddings, birthdays, and graduations, to get well wishes and funerals, the Lily is arguably one of the most versatile and popular flowers around. They can also spell trouble not only for dogs, but even more so for cats. Literally every part of the plant is toxic to both, from the leaves to the stems to the bulbs. According to the APCC, “Even the water from the vase of a lily can trigger sudden kidney failure in cats.”

For a complete (printable) list of poisonous indoor and outdoor plants, be sure to check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) website at https://www.aspca.org.

Familiarizing yourself with plants and trees that are harmful to pets is just one more way we can demonstrate our boundless love for the furriest family members.

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