Disclaimer! This material is for informational purposes only, not as a guide to home treatment. Contact a veterinarian or poison control center in any case of suspected poisoning!
*ps, sidebar from me; Be careful of the diet you feed your pets. Pet Problems? Holistic & Safe Products Offer Effective Alternatives Click to Learn More
I decided to research this topic when my four year old black lab, while totally bored one day, decided to eat one of my house plants. I found him playing with the plastic pot on my bed, plant dirt ground into the bed cover. Thank goodness the plant was not poisonous…but it could have been. This prompted me to find out how many plants actually are poisonous. The following is what I discovered.
While plants definetaly add a touch of color and fragrance to our home and garden, they also bring danger into the lives of our pets. I have read that more than 700 plants have been identified as producing toxic substances in sufficient amounts to cause harmful effects in animals.
I will tell you my experience with poisons and pets. It was not a plant, but medicine. My puppy, Nikki, got into my husbands MS pills. One morning I while I was at the back of the house my husband called me from downstairs. Because of his MS, he has a “suite” downstairs, and if he wants me he calls me; we have 2 phone lines. I came out to the living room, and there was my golden retriever, Nikki, ..little while pills were scattered all around her paws.
I instantly called the vet, changed from my pj’s and ran out the door. That took less then 5 minutes. She was already seizing. It took a miracle and a kitten to bring her back to life. The kitten is another story all together. My golden was at the vets all day and overnight.
She came within a heartbeat of dying”… So, please, if you know your pet ingested something poisonous. Call your vet immediately. It’s what saved my Nikki.
General First Aid
What should I do if I suspect that my pet has been poisoned?
First – call your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center. Place their number with your vets number. Have these numbers handy at all times, so in an emergency you do not need to go looking frantically for these numbers.
Please go to their website and ensure no changes have been made since my own research. Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435); a $50 consultation fee may apply.
When the 888 number is used, your credit card number will likely be required in addition to the above information. (If the agent is part of the Animal Product Safety Service, the consultation is at no cost to you.)
How can you receive additional information?
For more information about the center’s various services, please contact:
Dana B. Farbman, CVT, Senior Manager, Client and Professional Relations
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1717 South Philo Road, Suite #36
Urbana , IL 61802
When you call the center, or your vet, have the following information available if possible:
Name of the plant or poison.
How much poison was involved.
How long ago did the animal come in contact with the poison.
The animal’s apprx. weight.
Remember, FIRST call your vet.
Wash the animal with large volumes of water. If your pet is having a reaction to a flea product a mild handsoap or shampoo can be used. If an oil-based toxin (such as petroleum products), use dishwashing liquids.
If the poison is in the eye, flush with a lot of water.
If the poison is a powder, dust or even vacuum it off.
For Inhaled poisons
Take the animal outside as fast as possible.
Sometimes it is a good idea to give milk, but, first ask your vet! It may be ok to induce vomiting, but always check with your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center first. Do not induce vomiting in the following circumstances.
The animal is having difficulty breathing
The animal is seizuring, depressed or abnormally excited.
The animal is unconscious.
The toxin is a caustic like drain opener, an acid (battery) or a petroleum-based product.
The heart rate is very slow.
A Cat’s Normal Rate = 160-220 beats/minute
A Dog’s Normal Rate = Small dogs less than 30 lbs. 100-160 bpm
Medium dogs to large dogs. 60-100 bpm
And for puppies 120-160 bpm
How to induce vomiting
Place 1 teaspoon of table salt into the animals mouth.
Always save the vomitus to show your veterinarian.
Warning! Never use Ipecac syrup which may be toxic to dogs and cats.
Also, when your pet has recovered and you think he may need pain medicine, never ever give Tylenol. Again, check with your vet.
Sources and Additional Readings
Botanical texts: Kingsbury, Eshleman, Meuncher, Arena, and Radcliff
Veterinary texts: The Merck Veterinary Manual, poisonous plant booklets for IL, KY and NY, Current Veterinary Therapy for Small Animals, Large Animals and Equine Veterinary Journals: Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Record, J. of the American Veterinary Medical Association, J. of Range Management, Modern Veterinary Practice, Compendium for the Practicing Veterinarian, J. of the American Animal Hospital Association, and others
Here are some of the more common plants.
Dumbcane (Aroids) THE AROID FAMILY
Aglaonema: CHINESE EVERGREEN
Arisaema: JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT, GREEN DRAGON
Caladium: ELEPHANT EARS
Monstera: CUT-LEAF PHILODENDRON, CERIMAN, MEXICAN BREADFRUIT
Scindapsus: DEVIL’S-IVY, POTHOS
Symplocarpus foetidus: SKUNKCABBAGE
Syngonium: TRI-LEAF WONDER, ARROWHEAD VINE, NEPTHYTIS
TOXICITY RATING: Moderate. Pets may sample these commonly available plants with a nibble or two, but rarely ingest any quantity sufficient to cause serious problems or death. Risk increases with hungry or bored animals housed in close proximity to these plants.
ANIMALS AFFECTED: Any animal that chews or ingests the leaves will be affected. In Indiana, nearly all of these plants would be grown as houseplants, therefore pets (including birds and reptiles) are primarily at risk.
DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: Roots, leaves, stems.
CLASS OF SIGNS: Mouth and throat irritation, salivating, possibly stomach irritation, diarrhea (rarely).
PLANT DESCRIPTION: All 2,000 species of this family of plants should be treated as potentially toxic. A few are eaten, such as poi and taro (Colocasia esculenta) in Hawaii, but only after the poison is eliminated by cooking. Seven species of aroids occur naturally in Indiana, mostly in wet areas. Jack-in-the-pulpit and skunkcabbage are the most common and best known of these. Dumbcane (fig. 3), pothos, and philodendron are potted plants of offices, restaurant lobbies, and homes.
Aroids are perennials, many arising from corms or rhizomes. Some may be vines. The large net-veined leaves, which may have white or colored spots, are borne on leaf stalks that sheathe the stem. Most of these plants have simple leaves, but jack-in-the-pulpit has three-parted foliage (fig. 19). The aroid flower is a fleshy green, white, or yellow spike (spadix) borne inside a wraparound hood or bract (spathe). The fruits are brightly colored berries, borne in tight clusters, not often produced by the house plant species.
SIGNS: The plant cells contain needle-like crystal of insoluble calcium oxalate which penetrate the skin and mouth causing discomfort. In addition, the plants contain proteolytic enzymes which release histamine and kinins, causing swelling and an itching or burning sensation. Affected animals will shake their head, paw or rub the face and mouth, may salivate or foam at the mouth, may seek water, or may have visible swelling. Very severely affected animals may experience oral swelling to the point that swallowing and breathing become impaired. Typically, animals are not severely affected, since a few bites of the plants are often a sufficient deterrent to further consumption. Occasional reports of these plants causing kidney failure in cats have not been well-verified. Effects in cats appear to be limited to the signs described above. Some of these plants have been used with humans to prevent individuals from talking by causing excessive tongue swelling, hence the name “dumbcane”.
FIRST AID: For minor irritation, provide supportive care and prevent further exposure. For more severe signs, if the animal does not improve within a few minutes, or if swallowing or breathing is impaired, consult a veterinarian immediately.
TOXICITY RATING: Low. Although reported to be very toxic in a few scattered reports, this is not a frequently encountered toxicosis.
ANIMALS AFFECTED: Cats, dogs, birds, other pets.
DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: Leaves, berries.
CLASS OF SIGNS: Oral irritation, stomach irritation, diarrhea, breathing problems, coma, death.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: The vines that give many colleges their “halls of ivy” appearance may be poisonous. These woody vines, also used as groundcovers, have alternate, palmately-lobed, dark green leaves with lighter green veins (fig. 5). Flowers are uncommon but are borne in small umbrella-like clusters and produce small black berries.
SIGNS: A saponic glycoside, the aglycone hederagenin, is found in the leaves and berries. This is an uncommon poisoning, but incidents have been reported in dogs, cats, and pet monkeys, especially when the green berries were eaten. The most common signs relate to mouth and stomach irritation, but coma and death may occur if large quantities are consumed.
FIRST AID: There is no specific antidote. If animals are observed eating English ivy, contact a veterinarian immediately, especially if a large quantity of the plant was consumed. A bite or two of a leaf is not likely to cause a serious problem, but this should be discouraged.
Catnip Catnip can be considered as a legal recreational drug for cats!
PARTS OF PLANT: Stems, leaves.
CLASS OF SIGNS: Behavioral changes.
Only in Cats
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Catnip (fig. 7) has all the characteristic earmarks of a member of the mint family: stems square in cross-section, leaves opposite and fragrant, and small flowers in tight clusters at the ends of branches. This perennial herb may grow up to 3 feet tall and be highly branched. The gray-green to green leaves are heart-shaped with scalloped edges and are often crowded toward the top of the plant. The flowers are white, dotted with purple, two-lipped, and produce four tiny, dark nutlets per flower.
SIGNS: Only cats are affected, and some cats are affected more than others. Aromatic oils and the monoterpene, nepetalactone, cause the signs. Cats will rub and sometime ingest the plant, and then act “drunk” or “wild” for up to an hour or more. No lasting toxicity is reported. If excessive amounts are ingested, vomiting and diarrhea can result, but the signs are self-limiting. Catnip can be considered as a legal recreational drug for cats!
FIRST AID: None is required.
Christmas Plant (Poinsettia)
Poinsettia pulcherrima (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
TOXICITY RATING: Low.
ANIMALS AFFECTED: All animals can be affected, but pets are more likely to come into contact with Poinsettia than are livestock.
DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: Leaves and stems primarily, but all parts may be toxic.
CLASS OF SIGNS: Skin, mouth, eye, and stomach irritation.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: People commonly display this potted plant (fig. 8) in houses and offices in the wintertime. These 1 to 4 feet tall plants with yellow stems bear alternate, coarsely toothed, smooth, green leaves. The top leaves turn red. Although many people mistake them for petals, they function as “bracts”, calling attention to the true flowers which are tiny, yellow, and clustered at the top of the plant. The inconspicuous fruits are small, green, three-lobed, fleshy capsules.
SIGNS: The milky sap (a latex) is irritating to skin, eyes, and mucus membranes. Once considered extremely poisonous, toxicity is more likely to manifest as irritation, discomfort, rash, and stomach upset. Nausea and vomiting may occur if sufficient quantities are consumed. Typically, animals will show head-shaking, salivation, and pawing or rubbing at the mouth or eyes.
FIRST AID: Wash sap off the animal to prevent further ingestion. Call a veterinarian if the eyes are affected, or if signs do not resolve in a few minutes.
PREVENTION: Poinsettia should not be allowed near curious animals.
TOXICITY RATING: High.
ANIMALS AFFECTED: The only reported toxicity is in cats.
DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: Leaves primarily, stems and flowers may also be toxic.
CLASS OF SIGNS: Gastrointestinal irritation (vomiting), depression, lack of appetite.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: (I need to get this to you)
SIGNS: This is a newly reported toxicosis, apparently lethal only to cats. Upon consumption of Easter lily (the exact amount is unknown), the cats begin to vomit within an hour or so. The cat then becomes depressed over the next half day, presumably as the toxin begins to affect the kidneys. Within 48 to 96 hours after consumption, the cat will tend to show signs of clinical kidney failure: increased urination, depression, stomach upset, dehydration. Death tends to occur within 5 days.
FIRST AID: If a cat is seen eating Easter lily, contact a veterinarian immediately. If emergency treatment is begun within 6 hours of consumption, the chance are good that the cat will recover. This generally consists of emptying the gastrointestinal tract of the affected cat and intravenous fluid therapy in a hospital setting. If more than 18 hours has elapsed, the cat may not survive, even with emergency care.
PREVENTION: Easter lily is a popular plant at certain times of the year, and extra caution must be used when bringing these plants into the house where cats can get at them. Make sure the plant is kept away from cats, especially ones that like to nibble on things. If nibbling plants is unavoidable, have a selection of safe plants available (grass or catnip are two possibilities).
From the ASPCA
There is a list of poisonous plants on their site. Please check it out.
Please note that the information contained in their plant lists is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather a compilation of the most frequently encountered plants. For general information on plants not included on either of their list, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org