By Jennifer McDonald, Mobile County Master Gardener CoastalAlabamaGardening@gmail.com
We all love our “fur babies,” and, in many households, the pets are as much a part of the family as the humans we love the most. Though our beloved animals often bring us immeasurable joy through the years, they can have a few annoying quirks as well, including the tendency to wreak havoc on our plants. You may have your own story about your dog digging up your freshly planted backyard garden, or your cat turning over your favorite potted plant just for spite, or even using it as an alternate litter box.
In most cases, our pets are likely to be more dangerous to our plants than the plants are to them, but it’s important to be aware that some plants can be very dangerous to our pets. Many cats and dogs seem to have no interest in eating plants, and, fortunately, many of the most toxic plants tend to taste unpleasant. However, that isn’t always the case, and some pets have the tendency to chew on just about anything, including any plant they can get their mischievous little paws on.
It’s important to be aware of any potentially dangerous plants in your home: critical information in the event your pet becomes unexpectedly ill at some point. If your pet seems to be a plant nibbler, it’s especially important to make sure you don’t have toxic plants in your house or anywhere your pet might have access.
While the following list is not comprehensive, it represents many of the most common plants found in our houses and gardens.
Azalea- Unfortunately this extremely popular plant is highly toxic to cats and dogs, and in many cases it only takes a small amount to cause vomiting and diarrhea, weak heart rate, depression of the central nervous system, drooling, and, in the worst cases, even coma or death.
Sago Palm- Also very popular locally, this plant is extremely toxic to cats and dogs, which is unfortunate since many pets find them tasty. Consuming any part of the plant can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding disorders, liver failure, seizures, and even death.
Oleander- This plant is extremely toxic to cats and dogs, and ingestion can cause heart abnormalities, tremors, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, and possibly death.
Castor Bean- Also extremely toxic to cats and dogs, ingestion of a small amount can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, abdominal pain, extreme thirst, loss of appetite, tremors, seizures, coma, or death.
Daffodil- This plant is toxic to cats and dogs, and the bulb itself is especially dangerous. However, eating any part of the plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, cardiac arrhythmia, and respiratory problems.
Tulips- The bulb is especially toxic to cats and dogs, but consumption of any part of the plant can cause nausea, gastrointestinal irritation, excessive drooling, irritation of the mouth, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions, cardiac abnormalities, and possibly death.
Milkweed- This extremely toxic plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, rapid pulse, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, kidney or liver failure, and even death in cats and dogs.
Foxglove- Every part of the plant is extremely toxic to cats and dogs and can cause cardiac failure and death.
Autumn Crocus- This plant is highly toxic to cats and dogs, and ingestion can cause oral irritation, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, kidney failure, seizures, bone marrow suppression, and death.
Lilies- Many types are somewhat toxic to dogs, especially smaller dogs, but lilies are one of the most dangerous plants of all for cats. Consumption of even small amounts, including any pollen that may fall off the flower, can cause liver and kidney failure, and ingestion is often fatal without immediate treatment. Be especially careful about cats grooming themselves after stepping in pollen that may have fallen from cut flowers onto counters, tabletops, or other surfaces where cats walk.
Chrysanthemums- They are moderately toxic to cats and dogs and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and incoordination.
Black Walnuts- Although they are not especially harmful to cats, ingesting fallen nuts can cause seizures and upset stomach to dogs.
Iris- This popular plant is toxic to cats and dogs, and ingestion of the flower can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of energy, and excessive drool.
Aloe Vera- Although this plant has medicinal benefits for humans, it is toxic to cats and dogs and ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and depression of the central nervous system.
Gladiolas- This popular flower is toxic to cats and dogs, and ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and lethargy.
Ivy- Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and excessive salivation in cats and dogs.
Pothos- Toxic to cats and dogs, ingestion of this plant can cause irritation of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.
It is important to act quickly if you have reason to suspect your pet has consumed one of these plants. Ingestion of many of them should be considered a medical emergency. Contact your vet immediately or head to the nearest emergency clinic. If possible, bring the plant with you for easier identification.