With summertime just around the corner, people (and their pets) will be spending a lot more time outside, enjoying the nice weather. Unfortunately, allowing your dog to roam around the park or even your yard comes with a whole new of set of risks you have to watch out for.
One of the dangers I’m referring to is plants. That’s right, plants. While the majority are harmless, some plants can put your dog in a potentially life-threatening situation if the proper precautions are not taken.
Unknown to many pet parents, there are numerous indoor and outdoor plants that are toxic to dogs when ingested. With a dog’s tendency to munch on anything and everything, it’s important to know which plants could potentially harm your beloved pet.
We’ve outlined 13 of the most toxic plants for dogs below. With pictures, plants descriptions, and symptoms, this list will help you know what to look for and when to take your pup to the veterinarian.
1. English Ivy
English ivy is a low maintenance plant predominantly found on the sides of buildings or shady flat surfaces. These climbing vines, while beautiful, produce a naturally occurring steroid (which is toxic for dogs) called sapogenin. The highest concentration of this steroid is located in its leaves. This chemical can cause gastrointestinal problems, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing and skin irritations. Repeated skin exposure with the sap of the ivy plant can result in major skin rashes that intensify over time. English ivy is typically considered a mild toxin, but always keep an eye on your pup when these vines are around.
2. Aloe Vera
The aloe plant is known for its topical healing properties with burns, muscle aches, and other skin irritations. Found around the home and in gardens, this “healing” plant can cause some major issues for your pet if ingested. Aloin is the toxic agent found within the gooey, yellow substance that’s secreted when the aloe leaves are cut. This toxin can cause vomiting, digestive issues, and can turn your dog’s urine red.
3. Dumb Cane — Dieffenbachia
Dieffenbachia, also known as dumb cane, is a tropical plant often used as an indoor or patio houseplant. While its broad leaves are great for natural air purification, the calcium oxalates and other proteolytic enzymes found in the stem and leaves makes it very toxic for household pets. Dumb cane can cause oral irritation, vomiting, inflammation of the digestive tract, difficulty swallowing, and a numbness or burning sensation in the lips, tongue and mouth region.
Philodendron is a species of plants characterized by their shiny, almost rubbery, dark green leaves. The two most common varieties include a smaller climbing plant that has teardrop-shaped leaves and another with larger, broader leaves that are split into multiple sections. It is a popular indoor, decorative plant due to its low maintenance properties. However, because of that, it’s an easy target for young puppies and inquisitive dogs. Philodendron plants contain insoluble calcium oxalates, and when ingested, it can cause drooling, foaming at the mouth, vomiting and oral pain. In more severe cases of philodendron poisoning, your dog can experience swelling of the lips, tongue, and sometimes airways – making it difficult to breathe or swallow.
5. Elephant Ear
Elephant ear, accurately named for its large, tear-drop shaped leaves, is another plant that can cause major issues for your pup if ingested. Elephant ear contains similar toxins to the ones found in dieffenbachia and philodendron. These calcium oxalate crystals cause a lot of oral discomfort. The clinical signs of a toxic reaction include swelling of the mouth region, burning sensations of the lips and tongue, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
6. Sago Palm
This variety of palm tree is very popular in warmer climates and can be used as an indoor and outdoor plant. All parts of the sago palm are toxic to dogs, but the “nuts” or seeds have the highest levels of the potentially fatal toxin known as cycasin. Ingesting simply one or two of these seeds can make your dog dangerously ill. Side effects of the sago palm are drooling, increased thirst, vomiting, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, seizures, liver damage/failure, and possible death.
The Yew plant is a popular landscaping plant due to bright red berries and its ability to stay green all year around. The toxic principle in the yew plant is called taxine. Taxine is a compound that can have a direct and immediate consequence on the heart. Ingestion of any part of the yew plant can result in irregular heartbeats or even sudden death from acute cardiac failure. The early signs of a taxine poisoning include muscle tremors, seizures, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. Symptoms can occur within hours of ingestion. If your pet comes into contact with the yew plant, keep a watchful eye on them until you can get them to the vet.
8. Castor Bean Plant
The Castor bean plant is one of the most toxic plants on this list (for both humans and pets). Though not too common in home gardens, this dangerous plant can be found in parks and other large outdoor landscaping.
The Castor bean plant contains the chemical ricin, which is known to be highly toxic to animals. The ricin compound is mostly concentrated in the castor bean seeds. If ingested, these beans can cause oral irritation, burning of the mouth and throat, dehydration, loss of appetite, colic, sweating, difficulty breathing, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. Symptoms are typically seen 12 to 48 hours after ingestion.
Pet parents must be very careful. Even one seed can have potentially lethal effects. If the poisoning is severe, dogs may experience symptoms such as kidney failure, bloody diarrhea, loss of coordination, and/or convulsions. If you believe your dog has been in contact with a castor bean plant, please monitor their symptoms closely and take him to the vet at the first sign of distress. Without proper treatment, your pup could be in critical condition within hours.
9. Autumn Crocus
Autumn crocus is a poisonous flowering plant commonly found in gardens and yards. The autumn crocus plant contains chemical compounds of colchicine and other alkaloids that can result in serious consequences for your dog. Ingesting any part of the plant can irritate your pet’s mouth, cause diarrhea, vomiting, overall muscle weakness, shock, and multi-organ damage.
Azalea plants are vibrant flower shrubs found in many home gardens and public park landscaping. Despite their beautiful exterior, these flowering shrubs are extremely toxic to dogs and produce serious gastrointestinal issues. If your pup ingests even a few leaves of this plant, it can cause upset stomach, drooling, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, discoordination, and even cardiac failure. Please note that overconsumption of this flowering shrub can be potentially fatal. Contact your vet immediately if your pet starts showing signs of these symptoms after being around azalea plants.
Daffodils are the quintessential springtime flower. Found in spring and summer months, they are a cheerful addition to any garden or home. Yet, if ingested, this plant can cause intestinal spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmias, convulsions and a serious drop in blood pressure. The entire plant is considered poisonous to dogs, but the daffodil bulb holds the most toxins.
Similar to daffodils, the bright and colorful tulip plant is very toxic to dogs. The bulb is the most poisonous part of the plant and if ingested, can cause symptoms like oral irritation, gastrointestinal issues, excessive drooling, loss of appetite, and nausea. More serious cases may result in the depression of the central nervous system, convulsions, cardiac abnormalities and even death. Found in many gardens, flower bouquets, and public parks, dog owners must be very wary around these flowering plants.
Oleander is a popular flowering shrub found in the southern United States and California. Recognized by its striking flowers, the oleander plant is beautiful, yet lethal. The main toxins found in oleander are cardiac glycosides. This compound, if ingested, can be very toxic for dogs. Signs of oleander poisoning include drooling, stomach pains, bloody diarrhea, colic, vomiting, and loss of coordination.
In more serious cases, oleander has caused muscle tremors, heart abnormalities, and depression. Fortunately, death by oleander is rare due to the bitter taste that helps to deter any dog from eating too much!
Also, watch out for these other plants. While they aren’t lethal like many of the above, they can still cause your pup a great deal of distress:
- ZZ Plant
- Corn Plant
- Asparagus Fern
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This list does not cover all poisonous plants but it’s a great start to being more aware of the possible dangers lurking in your home and garden.
Stay Safe This Summer and Have Fun!