Indoor/Outdoor Safety: Pets and Toxic Plants

A cat eating a plant

Pet owners go to great lengths to protect their animals from being exposed to toxic food, chemicals, and medications. But sometimes the most innocuous-seeming item in the house or garden becomes the biggest threat. We’re talking about plants, of course! They’re leafy, flowery and momentarily satisfying to munch on. But the combination of pets and toxic plants deserves careful attention and lots of space.

Know What Plants are Toxic

There are few things worse than discovering your pet has been poisoned. Cats and dogs are naturally curious about their surroundings and will try anything once. Simply not giving them the opportunity to sample toxic plants is the best prevention. This means taking stock of what is planted in the yard, and never bringing home indoor plants known to cause harm.

Varying Degrees

Of course, it all depends on the plant, your pet’s overall health, and how much they consume. There are many plants considered that are mildly toxic when compared with others known to be extremely poisonous. However, if a pet eats a large quantity of mildly toxic plants they may be subject to the various symptoms of toxicity.

What Are the Signs of Pet Plant Toxicity?

Vomiting, diarrhea, mobility issues, drooling, and appetite loss are the most common signs of toxicity. If they chew on the leaves of certain plants their mouth and throat can become irritated. 

Common houseplants such as Philodendron, Poinsettia (even long after the holidays), Dieffenbachia, Peace lily, and Pothos should either be displayed on inaccessible surfaces or not at all. Dracaena, ficus, and snake plants may not immediately entice your pet (as they appear sort of tough to chew on) but they can still cause problems if they spontaneously try to eat them.

From Bad to Worse

Pets and toxic plants are not a good match, but you can weed out what’s bad for them using this guide from the ASPCA. Luckily, there are many safe plants to replace the toxic ones. 

Severe poisoning can occur after eating certain garden shrubs or bushes, such as:

  • Azaleas
  • Rhododendrons
  • Euphorbia
  • Lilies (of any kind)
  • Hydrangeas
  • Oleander
  • Sago palms
  • Mistletoe 

Watch out for these frightening symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Excessive thirst
  • Pale gums
  • Low body temperature
  • Fever
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hypersalivation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Coma

These signal a real pet emergency, and we urge you to act quickly. Ignoring symptoms of poisoning or waiting for them to resolve on their own can threaten a pet’s life, and may even result in death. Kidney failure in cats is a real risk when it comes to toxic plants and requires immediate veterinary intervention.

Pets and Toxic Plants

Depending on the type and volume of toxic plants consumed, symptoms and outcomes vary greatly. Generally speaking, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. 

If you see your pet eat any part of a toxic plant, don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Gather up the evidence of the plant and your pet. We are open 24 hours a day for pet emergencies. On the other hand, if tell-tale symptoms are affecting them but you don’t know exactly what they ate, please bring them in to see us.

Please call us at (570) 424‑6773 if you have further questions about pets and toxic plants. We’re always here for you at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital.