Poison Prevention-Plants & Pets

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Spring has sprung! Well, kind of.  As warm weather inches its way towards us, we’ll soon be spending more time outside, and some of us will be planting our gardens and watching flowers bloom.  Many plant species are poisonous to our pets.  Sometimes it’s the leaves, others it’s the flowers, or maybe even the bulbs.


Below are just a few of the plants to watch out for.


Aloe Vera: This common houseplant contains chemicals that, when ingested, increase mucus production and water in the colon, which causes vomiting and diarrhea.  Other symptoms may include depression, decreased appetite, changes in urine color, and rarely tremors.


Buckeye: Also known as the Horse Chestnut, the leaves and seeds of buckeyes contain a variety of toxins.  Small amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling.  Pets who ingest a larger amount may show symptoms including depression, excitement/agitation, lack of coordination, muscle twitching, and seizures.


Stinging Nettles: The tiny hairs covering this plant contain histamine, which when an animal rubs up against the plant, gets injected into the animal.  This causes redness of the skin, swelling, and intense itching.  If the plant is swallowed, symptoms include, heavy drooling, pawing at the mouth, vomiting, labored breathing, muscle twitching, and stumbling.


Hydrangea: While the entire shrub contains a toxic chemical, the leaves and flowers contain a higher concentration.  Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.


Cherry Tree/Shrubs: These plants contain a chemical that prevents cells from taking in oxygen.  Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty breathing, low oxygen levels, bright red gums, dilated (large) pupils, shock, and death.


Christmas Rose: The entire plant, including the root, contains a toxic substance.  Symptoms of ingestion include drooling, lethargy, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.


Holly: Both a toxin in the plant and the external spiney leaves and cause problems for pets when holly is ingested.  GI upset such as vomiting and diarrhea can be expected.  Drooling, smacking of lips, and shaking the head can be a sign that your pet has tasted and hurt his mouth on the spiney leaves.


Mistletoe: Eating small amounts of the mistletoe berries will cause mild stomach upset (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, drooling).  Large amounts will cause more serious symptoms including abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, lack or coordination/stumbling, collapse, seaizures, and death.


Poinsettia: These plants aren’t as poisonous to pets as has been pushed for many years.  Ingesting the plant will cause mild signs of vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling.  If the milky white sap in the plant gets on the skin, expect to see redness, swelling, and itchiness.  Eye exposure can cause a mild conjunctivitis.


Morning Glory: The seeds of some species of Morning Glories can be toxic and cause lack of coordination, diarrhea, anemia, and liver necrosis.


Peony: The toxin in this plant is in the bark, and when ingested in large amounts can cause stomach upset.


Iris: Along with the relative, Gladiolas, the bulbs of these plants contain high concentrations of irritating compounds which can cause tissue irritation.  When ingested, drooling, vomiting, diarrha and lethargy can be seen.


Philodendrons, Calla Lily, Skunk Cabbage: These plants contain a specific crystal that is released when a pet bites or chews into them, immediately causing pawing at the face (due to pain), drooling, and vomiting.  Other possible symptoms include swelling of the lips, tongue, and upper airway, causing difficulty breathing or swallowing.


Crocus: There are 2 types of Crocus plants.  The spring blooming Crocus is more commonly found and less toxic when ingested.  Belonging to the family Iridaceae, signs on ingestion include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.


The Autumn Crocus is part of the Liliaceae family, and all parts of this plant are poisonous.  Symptoms include severe vomiting, drooling, bloody diarrhea, liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, seizures, and death.  Signs of poisoning can be immediate, or can be delayed for days.


Lily: Some lilies are benign, causing minor problems such as irritation or stomach upset.  Other lilies are extremely dangerous, even fatal.


Benign lilies include Calla lilies (above), Peace, and Peruvian lilies.  These will cause local tissue irritation in the mouth, including tongue, pharynx, and esophagus.  Pets will drool or foam at the mouth, paw at the mouth, and may vomit.


Extremely dangerous lilies include Tiger Lily, Day Lily, Easter Lily, Asiatic hybrid, Japanese Show Lily, Rubrum, Stargazer, Red Lily, Western Lily, Wood Lilies…  Whether it’s a nibble from some leaves or pollen or water from the vase, the end result is severe, acute kidney failure.


Lily of the Valley doesn’t cause kidney failure, but can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when ingested.


Liliaceae Family: Tulips & Hyacinths: The bulbs of these flowers can cause severe toxicity when ingested.  Symptoms include local irritation of the mouth, as well as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, and difficulty breathing


Rhododendrons/Azaleas: It doesn’t take much of these plants to cause a problem.  Symptoms include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weakness, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rate or rhythm, depression, tremors, seizures, blindness, or coma.


Narcissus/Daffodils: Lycorine is found in the bulb, plant and flower and triggers vomiting when ingested.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression.

Foxglove/Milkweed/Oleander: These plants all contain a chemical which will affect the heart.  All parts of the plant are considered toxic, even the water in the vase.  Signs include abnormal heart rate and rhythm, electrolyte imbalance, vomiting, dilated pupils, tremors, and seizures.

Mushroom: Most mushrooms are non-toxic, but as species identification can be difficult, all mushrooms should be considered toxic until proven otherwise.  Toxicity and symptoms depend on the species of mushroom ingested but can include: hallucinations, stomach upset, liver failure, seizures, tremors, kidney failure, or death.


Marijuana: Second-hand smoke as well as ingestion of any form of marijuana will cause toxicity in animals.  Symptoms typically are seen within 3 hours of poisoning and include severe depression, lethargy, coma, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, dialated pupils,  low heart rate, hyperactivity, vocalization and seizures.


If there is any chance at all your pet could have ingested marijuana, please be honest with your veterinarian.  They need your honesty to properly and correctly treat your pet.


These are just a sampling of the plants that can be toxic to pets.  When in doubt, assume it is toxic and call your vet or poison control if your pet ingests any plant.


If you suspect your pet may have ingested any type of medication, don’t hesitate to call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.  Both of these centers charge a small fee for calling, but have veterinary toxicologists on staff to best help you help your pet.  They will be able to tell you what to expect from your pet, and if you should seek emergency care.  When you call, have ready the packaging from the substance ingested, your pet’s current weight, and current medical conditions your pet may have, and a list of any medication your pet is on.



The above information brought to you courtesy of the ASPCA Poison Control Center and the Pet Poison Helpline.