KEEPING POOCH-FRIENDLY PLANTS INDOORS AND KEEPING YOUR POOCH SAFE OUTDOORS
As PACK-feeding pawrents, you’re nailing it at keeping your dog thriving… but keeping your house plants healthy is a whole other challenge! After all, you can’t feed your foliage THE PACK’s superfood dinners. But what if you succeed in cultivating a luscious indoor garden only to find out that your shrubbery risks making your Shih Tzu sick?
While we're all for plant-based dog food, not all plants are good for your pooch to nosh on. In fact, some greenery is downright deadly for our dogs. Growing these plants inside your home, or indeed in your garden, is a risky business when you share your space with four-legged friends. To help sift the nom from the noxious, we’ve created a list of the shrubs and blooms that green-fingered pawrents should avoid in order to keep their dogs from sneaking a potentially lethal lick.
IN YOUR HOME
- Aloe, or Aloe Vera, is a plant with long, serrated leaves and yellow flowers. It’s the source of the famous gel that humans use to sooth burns, moisturise and even drink for health benefits. But while THE PACK love superfoods that support human and canine health, aloe vera isn’t one of them! Its main active ingredient, saponin, can cause serious problems in your dog’s body. The latex part of the plant causes cramping, diarrhoea, sickness and dehydration, lowering your pup’s blood sugar to put them at risk of coma and even death. When digested, aloe vera glycosides are metabolised with bacteria found in your hound’s intestinal tract, producing a compound that increases mucus and water in the colon, causing that nausea, vomiting and, eventually, dangerous dehydration.
- Both spiky red Cordyline plants and leafy green Cornstalk or Dracaena plants also contain saponins, those naturally occurring chemicals that cause dodgy doggy tummies, including vomiting and diarrhoea. Noshing on large amounts of Cordyline or Cornstalk can lead to depression, lethargy and incoordination.
- Amaryllis (Belladonna or the Naked Lady) plants have beautiful red flowers, often seen in homes at Christmas time. Unfortunately the Amaryllis contains lycorine and other toxic substances which can cause increased drooling, tummy troubles (vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased appetite and stomach pain), lack of energy and seizures in dogs. The bulb of the plant is the most toxic part, so keep your hound well away!
- Both Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia) and Philodendrons contain a common canine kryptonite: insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. When our dogs chew on the plants, special cells called idioblasts are broken, allowing doggy drool or sap from the plant to enter the cell. This causes the jelly-like material in the idioblast to swell, forcing needle-like calcium oxalate crystals to shoot out. These calcium oxalate crystals pierce and embed themselves into the tissues of your hound’s mouth, tongue, throat and stomach. Unsurprisingly, this causes a lot of pain: imagine your body being prickled by tiny needles from the inside out! Where dogs have ingested a lot of the plant, heart abnormalities, dilated pupils, coma and even death can occur.
- Ivy is one of the most obviously poisonous house and garden plants (for humans too, although we’re less likely to have a nibble). English ivy contains those sickening saponins again, as well as polyacetylene compounds. While ivy ingestion isn’t generally life-threatening, it’s best to get your dog to vet quickly if you suspect they’ve been snacking on your shrubbery.
- Certain lilies provide a deadly dinner for our four-legged pals. Prairie Lily or Rain Lily bulbs can cause severe stomach upset, while Lily of the Valley causes vomiting, diarrhoea, slowed heart rare, seizures, heart arrhythmias and even death. Peace Lillies also contain those irritating insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, as do Calla Lillies, causing mouth irritation, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, decreased appetite and excessive drooling.
- Another festive flower, Poinsettia is mildly toxic to dogs. Its milky white sap contains chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents. This causes mild signs of vomiting and drooling when nibbled by our pups, and the sap can cause irritation if it gets on their skin. Despite its poisonous reputation, Poinsettia ingestion doesn’t normally require medical treatment – but it’s always best to see your vet, just to be on the safe side.
- By contrast, the Sago Palm is a plant that dogs should never be allowed to interact with. Literally every part of the plant can make your pup sick, and the seeds are often a tempting snack for furry friends. The toxic compounds in Sago Palms can cause irreparable damage to your dog’s liver within just 15 minutes, even if they’ve only briefly held a frond in their mouth and put it down. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, a wobbly gait, seizures, yellow eyes and skin, nose bleeds and, scarily, bleeding from the mouth. Take your hound to the vet immediately to induce vomiting if you suspect they’ve touched a Sago Palm.
- Yucca plants are becoming popular house companions, but they contain steroidal saponins that cause drooling, vomiting and weakness when munched by our dogs.
Worried that your bathroom’s looking bare now you’ve rehomed your poisonous plant life? Don’t fret: house plants that are safe for dogs include Air Plants, Areca Palms, Banana Plants, Calathea or Prayer Plants, Chinese Money Plants, Ferns, Peperomia, Polka Dot Plants, Ponytail Palms, Sempervivum, String of Turtles and even Venus Flytraps.
IN YOUR GARDEN
- Aconitum (monkshood) has a pretty, hooded purple flower, concealing a hefty dose of highly toxic aconitine. This poisonous little plant has a long history of association with our canine companions: its Greek name lycoctonum translates literally to ‘wolf's bane’ because its juice was once used to poison arrows used to kill wolves. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the plant comes from the drooling mouth of Cerberus, the three-headed hound that guarded the gates of Hades. Yet this bloom is more dangerous for your dog than it is for you: if your one-headed hound nibbled just 1g of the plant, they could suffer death from respiratory paralysis or heart failure. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are early signs and you must act quickly as aconitum can be fatal within 2-6 hours. Thankfully, the plant smells and tastes pretty ruff to dogs and burns their mouths when chewed, so accidental poisonings from monkshood are rare.
- Giant Hogweed contains toxins in its stems and leaves that burn and blister canine (and human!) skin. The toxin is even more concentrated in the sap, released when the plant is damaged or broken. Our pups’ furry coats offer some protection but barer areas like ears, mouth and belly are highly susceptible to the hogweed’s blistering juices. If your dog licks the sap or gets it in their eyes, they’ll be in even more trouble!
- Bluebells might create a stunning blue vista in the early spring but the Bluebell plant contains toxic glycosides that are poisonous not only to our pooches, but also to humans. If any part is munched, it can cause tummy troubles and, if consumed in large quantities, can even be fatal. What’s more, Bluebell sap can cause skin irritation in your dog.
- Daffodils are another spring favourite that are sadly poisonous to dogs. They contain toxic lycorine, upsetting tummies, and other substances in a Daffodil flower can cause irritation to canine skin, mouths and throats if ingested.
- The innocent Buttercup might seem like a harmless and pretty little weed but it’s highly toxic to dogs. In most cases, their bitter taste will put off your pooch before they eat enough to harm them, but Buttercup pollencan still get on their fur when they’re out chasing a ball through your garden meadow, and they can then ingest it when licking their paws.
- One of the most poisonous plants you can grow in your garden is the Castor Bean, whose seed contains ricin, an incredibly potent naturally occurring toxin. If your dog swallows seeds from a Castor Bean, don’t waste any time in rushing them to the vet. Symptoms will appear from 6-42 hours after ingestion and include tummy pain, bloody wet poop, dehydration and excessive drooling, raised body temperature, trembling, vomiting and even death.
- Dog’s Mercury is, ironically, a terrible plant to grow near dogs! It also smells really bad. If your dog digests large quantities they can suffer kidney and liver damage. Symptoms include loss of appetite (always raising alarm bells in PACK-fed dogs!), a crooked neck, apathy and reddish-blue pee.
Other toxic plants to discourage in your garden include Azaleas and Rhododendrons, Asparagus Ferns, Begonias, Bleeding Heart, Chives, Chrysanthemums, Clematis, Cotoneaster, Crocuses, Cyclamen, Delphiniums, Foxgloves, Garden Star-of-Bethlehem, Geraniums, Gladiolas, Garlic, Onions and Shallots, Grape Vines, Leeks (garlic bulbs, leeks, onions and grapes are highly toxic to dogs so avoid leaving these lying around in your kitchen too!), Hemlock, Holly, Hops, Horse Chestnut trees (conkers are no fun for furry friends), Hosta, Hyacinths, Hydrangeas, Iris, Laburnum, Laceflowers, Larkspur, Lupin, Marijuana, Mistletoe, Morning glory, Nightshades, Oak trees and acorns, Oleander, Periwinkle, Pieris plants, Potato plants, Primrose, Rhubarb plants, Rowan, Sweet peas, Tomato plants, Tulips, Wisteria, Yarrow and Yew trees.
If you’ve just moved somewhere new, don’t forget that your dog can dig up bulbs and seeds that might be toxic. Keep a close eye on them when they’re exploring their new garden and step in if you see them getting down and dirty!
According to the PDSA, symptoms of plant toxicity or poisoning most often include low energy, vomiting, diarrhoea (sometimes even blood in poo), drinking and peeing more, pale gums, twitching, seizures, struggling to breathe, collapsing, drooling or loss of appetite. Some plants also irritate a dog’s skin or mouth, leading to rashes or redness, ulcers or lip, tongue or gum swellings. It goes without saying that you should get your pup to the vet pronto if you notice any of these signs.
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