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Plants and Pets

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I was working on a PowerPoint the other day for an upcoming program on houseplants. As I sat there thinking about what information I wanted to include and being a dog person (I have an English Bulldog who thankfully leaves my plants alone) got me to thinking about plant toxicity and animals. I have a number of houseplants as well as the plants in my yard and decided to do some research into what plants were ones that pet owners should be careful with if they have pets that like to graze.

  • Lilies (Lilium spp.) - These plants are highly toxic to cats and can result in kidney damage or kidney failure. What makes them so toxic is unknown but according to Dr. Lauren Eichstadt, a UC Davis veterinary pharmacist, says that completely kidney failure can occur in 36-72 hours after ingestion.
  • Sago Palms (Cycas revoluta) - A common house plant that's easy to grow is toxic to both dogs and cats. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds that it can produce have the highest concentration of cycasin and ingesting just one or two seeds can have severe effects. It should be noted that sago palms are dioecious meaning that there are separate male and female plants and to have seeds produced you would need both. The toxin can result in seizures and liver failure.
  • Daffodils (Narccissus spp.) & Tulips (Tulipa spp.) are toxic to both cats and dogs. The bulbs have the highest levels of toxins. The toxin can cause gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.
  • Rhododendron & Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are toxic to cats and dogs. The toxic substance in these plants is calling grayantoxins and are contained in all parts of the plant with the highest level of toxin being contained in the leaves. Ingestion can result in weakness and depression of the central nervous system, vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea.
  • Yew (Taxus spp.) contains a toxin known as taxine which impacts the central nervous system in both cats and dogs and can lead to acute cardiac failure. Early symptoms include muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, and seizures.
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.) an easy to grow and care for house plant that can survive in low light levels, contains calcium oxalates which can cause oral irritation, burning sensation in the mouth, excessive drooling, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp.) – a common plant for the holidays with big bold flowers contains a toxin called lycorine. Ingestion can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.
  • Pothos (Scindapsus aureus) and (is another common and easy to grow houseplant that grows well indoors in medium light levels. It contains calcium oxalates and results in the same symptoms caused by Peace Lily.
  • Schefflera (Schefflera actinophylla), also known as Umbrella tree, is a medium light loving houseplant that can easily be propagated from cuttings, also contains calcium oxalates.

This is just a small list of plants that can be toxic to both dogs and cats. A longer and larger list can be found on the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website. If you believe your pet has ingested portions of a toxic plant, contact your veterinarian and make sure to let them know what plant you believe your pet has eaten.



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