Some of the plants that add pops of color inside and outside your home, with their fragrant blooms and vibrant green leaves, can be harmful or even deadly to your canine companions. If Fido's been nibbling at your garden foliage or houseplants, he may exhibit signs of poisoning and require immediate veterinary care. It depends on what type of plant and how much he's eaten.
The most common symptoms your pup will experience when he ingests plant matter containing toxins include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness and changes in his urine, according to the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. These symptoms can occur after the dog eats any parts of a plant considered toxic to dogs, including the leaves, bark, berries, roots or flowers. Some plants contain higher concentrations of their toxins in certain parts, such as the berries, blooms or bulbs. The bulbs of all plants are considered toxic to our canine companions, resulting in gastrointestinal upset, loss of appetite and stomach pain, advises "Canine Medicine and Disease Prevention."
Many plants contain poisonous chemicals that can irritate your dog's skin if he touches them, causing rashes, itchiness and blisters, according to author Ellen Morris Bishop in "Best Hikes With Dogs Oregon." Touching such plants could result in drooling, coughing and lack of appetite if your pup licks the sap off of his skin or licks the plant itself. Toxic saps irritate not only the skin but also the inside of his mouth, including his lips, tongue and esophagus. While some plants don't contain toxins, they may have sharp barbs, spines, awns or burs that can scratch or become embedded in his skin and even irritate his eyes, nostrils and ears, warns the book "Canine Medicine and Disease Prevention."
Some plants contain serious toxins that can cause life-threatening symptoms. Chemicals like cardiac glycosides can lead to abnormal heart function, muscle tremors, trouble breathing and death due to heart failure, warns the Merrick Veterinary Group website. Other toxins found in common houseplants that can affect your pup's heart include tulipalin, taxine, grayantoxin and bufodienolides. Different types of alkaloids in plants may cause your pup to go into shock or even experience organ damage. Cycasin, found in sago palms, can cause blood clotting issues, liver failure and death. Without immediate veterinary treatment, and even if your pup has ingested a large amount of these potent poisons in spite of immediate veterinary care, he could die from them.
When you choose plants to add to your indoor collection or outdoor landscaping, purchase those classified by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as nontoxic to dogs. If your pup shows signs of plant poisoning after eating your foliage, bring a sample or picture of it along with Fido to the vet for proper identification. Some plant-based poisons have antidotes; the protocols for the treatment of others may differ, so it's important to know what flora your pup has gotten into or eaten. Most cases of toxic plant ingestion are treated with induced vomiting or stomach pumping to remove the plant matter from the pup's system along with supportive care like intravenous fluids and pain medication.
By Susan Paretts
Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Poisonous Plants Affecting Dogs
Pet Poison Helpline: Azalea
WebMD: Top 10 Dog Poisons
Modern Dog Magazine: Which Holiday Plants Are Toxic to Dogs?
Vetstream: Plant Poisoning: Calcium Oxalate
Merrick Veterinary Group: December 2009 Monthly Update -- Common Poisonous Plants and Fungi
Canine Medicine and Disease Prevention; Cody W. Faerber et al.
Continental Kennel Club: Isn’t That Poisonous to Dogs?
Best Hikes with Dogs Oregon; Ellen Morris Bishop
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants
About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.