Pothos is also known as golden pothos; Epipremnum aureum; or its common name, devil's ivy. Pothos's waxy-looking large leaves show well on a desk or when featured underneath a bay window, and the plant typically requires little care. For these reasons, pothos is a popular houseplant. If you are a dog owner, though, you have be careful where you place your pothos because the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that are toxic to your pet. Pet owners should know that pothos is among the poisonous plants that are toxic for both cats and dogs.
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What are pothos houseplants?
Pothos is a vine native to French Polynesia. It is recognized by its waxy, heart-shaped leaves that typically feature gold, white, or yellow variegation. It is one of the easiest plants to grow inside and is therefore very popular. Pothos plants are considered invasive in some parts of the United States and should not be planted outside. Pothos can be confused with the philodendron but has bigger leaves and grooved vines.
Which part of the pothos plant is toxic to dogs?
Every part of the pothos plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are toxic to pets. Calcium oxalate crystals are insoluble, meaning they cannot be broken down, so they remain sharp, jagged crystals that feel similar to how glass shards would feel as they travel through the body.
Symptoms of pothos poisoning in dogs
Ingesting or even chewing a pothos plant may not be life-threatening to your dog, but it may affect your dog's gastrointestinal tract. Eating the pothos plant typically does not kill a dog unless your pet is older or unhealthy. Most symptoms will appear within the first 24 hours.
Ingesting the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in the plant may cause:
- Oral irritation: The plant may cause the oral cavity to swell and burn. Your dog may act as though they are uncomfortable or pained and may paw at their mouth. They may also have difficulty swallowing.
- Difficulty breathing: The irritation can constrict the airway, causing difficulty breathing.
- Intense burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue, or lips: The insoluble calcium oxalate crystals feel like chewing glass shards and will cause irritation to anything they come in contact with.
- Lethargy: Your dog may look depressed or may be unwilling to move or be active.
- Vomiting or difficulty vomiting: They may begin to vomit up the plant, expelling the toxins. Due to the swelling and irritation, they may have difficulty expelling the large pothos leaves.
- Diarrhea: If the toxins are digested, they will irritate the lower GI tract, causing diarrhea.
- Excessive drooling: Your dog likely won't have an appetite for a day or two following ingestion but may drool due to the inflammation in their mouth.
More serious symptoms include loss of consciousness, seizures, or trouble breathing caused by internal swelling.
What to do if your dog eats a pothos plant
If you think your dog has chewed or ingested part of a pothos plant, remain calm and collect all materials you believe were involved. If you are not sure whether your dog chewed the plant, call your veterinarian as a precaution. Whether your dog shows symptoms or not, your veterinarian will advise you to either observe your dog or bring them to the animal hospital. For more information relating to the pothos plant and its possible effects, call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center hotline (888-426-4435).
If your veterinarian requests to see the dog immediately, bring these specific details with you.
- When and how: How long it has been since they ingested the pothos plant and how much of the plant you think your dog ingested
- Breed: Your dog's breed or mix of breeds if known
- Age: Your dog's age
- Weight: Your dog's normal weight
- Symptoms: The symptoms that you have observed
- The plant itself: If possible, bring the plant with you
- Samples of any vomit or stool: The veterinarian may find it helpful to examine anything that your dog has produced since eating the pothos plant
Recovery of pothos plant poisoning in dogs
After an initial exam, the veterinarian may want to run diagnostic tests to be sure that your dog does have serious complications from ingestion. Typically, they will draw blood to run a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry. They may also elect to do a urinalysis to further evaluate how the kidneys are doing after pothos poisoning.
If your dog ate a significant amount of leaves and stems, the veterinarian may induce vomiting. This will help reduce further damage from the calcium oxalate crystals. If your dog has been actively vomiting, they made be dehydrated and may need to stay overnight at the clinic for fluid therapy and observation. They will likely not have an appetite for 24 hours following the event as their system copes with the calcium oxalate crystals.
How to keep pothos away from dogs
If you own a pothos houseplant, hang it from the ceiling to make sure it is out of reach of your dog. Remove leaves as soon as they fall to the floor and keep the pothos plant healthy to decrease the number of leaves the houseplant sheds.
Know your pet's health. If you have an older dog with many problems, you may have to react quicker to a poison emergency. When you are away from your home, make sure your dog cannot access any room with a pothos plant. Crate training your dog will come in handy for keeping them safe while you are away.
Prepare ahead of time for a poison emergency by posting key phone numbers, such as those for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) and your dog's veterinarian, near the phone. Invest in an animal emergency kit, which contains items you can use to quickly assist your sick or injured dog.
Other poisonous houseplants
The following list of common houseplants are among those that are toxic to both cats and dogs.
- peace lily
- taro vine
- rubber plant
- plants in the family Araceae (dieffenbachia)
- sago palm
- aloe vera and some other succulents are toxic to pets
- jade plant
- ivy arum
The spider plant is non-toxic to dogs and cats. The African violet is non-toxic.
Pothos plants are a great option for houseplants since they don't require a lot of care or sunlight. However, be sure that they are placed in areas to which your pets do not have access since the calcium oxalate crystals contained in every part of the pothos are toxic to dogs. Seek veterinary help immediately if your dog ingests any parts of the plant.