Indoor and outdoor plants are commonplace in many homes. Before buying houseplants or growing anything in your garden, research them not just for growing conditions, but whether they’ll be safe for your four-legged friends.
Here are some to avoid:
1. SAGO PALM
Despite its elegant appearance, all parts of the plant are extremely poisonous if ingested by pets, with the seeds being the most toxic part of the plant. The toxic principle is cycasin; symptoms include drooling, vomiting, bloody stools, fluid retention in the abdominal area, internal hemorrhaging, jaundice, liver failure, and death. Because of the danger and severity of symptoms, treatment should be sought immediately.
2. JADE PLANT
Introduced as a houseplant decades ago, jade plant (Crassula ovata) is a succulent grown for its fleshy leaves and sturdy tree-like appearance that lends an exotic appeal. Harmful to dogs and cats if any part of the plant is ingested, the toxic property is unknown. Symptoms, which are generally mild, include vomiting, depression, lack of coordination, lethargy, loss of appetite, and in extreme cases, a slow heart rate or convulsions.
3. ALOE VERA
Popular for its many therapeutic uses, aloe (Aloe vera) is a succulent that grows natively in the UAE. The gel extracted from the leaves is primarily used topically as a salve to treat burns. Taken internally, aloe is used to treat a host of other medical issues. However, Aloe contains saponin, a toxin with foaming properties like soap that can harm pets if ingested. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, changes in urine color, and (rarely) tremors. In most cases, toxicity is mild to moderate, but in extreme cases, ingestion can be life-threatening because of severe dehydration that can result.
4. PHILODENDRON SCANDENS
Also known as sweetheart plant, the leaves can be toxic to cats and dogs if chewed or ingested. The toxic ingredient of calcium oxalate crystals is released upon chewing or biting any parts of the plant. Symptoms include drooling, mouth pain and swelling, decreased appetite, vomiting, and (rarely) constriction of airways. Toxicity is generally mild to moderate.
5. ZZ PLANT
One of the toughest and most forgiving houseplants is ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), the name abbreviated by the nursery trade for convenience. The shiny fleshy leaves and graceful arching habit hold up well in low light and even thrive on neglect, making this a good choice for those with busy lifestyles. The toxic property of calcium oxalate is mildly to moderately toxic if ingested by pets, causing swelling of the eyes, mucous membranes, or skin. In most cases, these and other possible symptoms of vomiting, stomachache, and diarrhea should resolve themselves.
6. CALLA LILY
Grown both as an indoor and outdoor plant, calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is best known for its elegant tubular flowers. Dangerous to pets if any parts of the plant are ingested, the active toxin is calcium oxalate crystals. Milder symptoms include a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, drooling, difficulty swallowing, and choking, which can linger up to two weeks. In rare cases when large quantities are ingested, symptoms include vomiting, breathing difficulties, convulsions, renal failure, permanent liver, or kidney damage, and even death. The level of toxicity is usually mild to moderate.
7. SNAKE PLANT
Grown for its spear like variegated leaves and upright appearance, snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a nearly indestructible houseplant that adds dramatic appeal to any room. Poisonous if ingested by pets, the toxic principle is saponin, which has foaming properties like soap. Symptoms, which are usually mild to moderate, include drooling, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
8. AZALEA AND RHODODENDRON
A sure sign of spring, azaleas and rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) are among the most beloved shrubs for their bell-shaped flowers and attractive evergreen leaves. The beauty of this plant belies its toxicity to cats and dogs if ingested. The poisonous substance can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, effects can include loss of appetite, abdominal pain, abnormal heartbeat, blindness, depression, tremors, and seizures. Toxicity can vary according to the plant variety, ranging from mildly to severely harmful.
These beauties can be harmful to pets, depending on the variety. Calla, peach, and Peruvian lilies are less toxic, causing mild symptoms such as drooling or mouth irritation if the plant or bulb are ingested. Others, such as Asiatic, Easter, and tiger lilies are more harmful, with the toxic property being present in all parts of the plant but concentrated most in the bulbs. Since dogs are known to dig them out of the ground, it is recommended that bulbs be kept out of reach of their inquisitive paws. Even the pollen or water from a vase can cause poisoning, particularly for cats. Ingestion can cause intestinal upset; symptoms include diarrhea, dehydration, drooling, vomiting, and lethargy. In extreme cases, pets can suffer a distended abdomen, jaundice, shock, cardiac imbalance, organ failure, and death.
Make sure to know the botanical name as well as common names of plants, as some go by the same common name, when browsing at your garden store. Keep contact information for your regular veterinarian handy – for MyPetBuddy premium members, the vet line can be called upon 24/7 for advice.
When possible, take a picture or bring a sample of the suspected poisonous plant to your veterinarian for positive identification, which will assist in rendering the appropriate treatment. Seek professional advice immediately, as delaying treatment can result in worsening symptoms.