April showers bring May flowers—and how beautiful those flowers can be! But it is important to be mindful of your pet when selecting plants for your garden. Many gorgeous, and common, springtime flowers are toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.
“If your pet is having an allergic reaction to a poisonous plant, he’ll exhibit drooling, vomiting and tremors,” says Dr. Laurie Coger, DVM, CVCP, and owner of HealthyDogWorkshop.com. “He’ll get agitated and stressed as his body tries to cope with the toxin.”
Plants Toxic to Cats
One of the most-commonly planted spring flowers—lilies—are extremely toxic to cats. While there are many flowers safe for cats, lilies are not one of them. Varieties such as Tiger, Day, Easter, Stargazer, Red and Wood lilies can cause severe health problems in your furry feline. Symptoms of lily poisoning include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.
It’s not just the flower petals and buds that cause issues for cats—the pollen, leaves and stems of a lily are poisonous to cats, too. The plant is so toxic, in fact, that if your cat drinks a small amount of water from a vase containing lilies, the toxins can cause kidney failure.
As succulents surge in popularity, one common question pet owners are asking is, “Are succulents poisonous to cats?” While most succulents are safe, there are some varieties that are known to cause problems in pets and humans alike if handled or ingested. Euphorbias contain a white sap that causes an intense rash, and Kalanchoes succulents trigger digestive upset in dogs and cats if ingested. These are two species of succulents poisonous to cats and dogs, but other succulents with sharp spines can also be hazardous. In general, it’s best to keep succulents out of the reach of your pets.
If you find your cat gnawing on your plants, you can satisfy your kitty’s craving for sweet greenery with SmartyKat Sweet Greens Cat Grass Seed Kit. The organic oat seeds grow into cat-safe grass, a naturally safer and healthier alternative to houseplants.
Plants Toxic to Dogs
Many of the plants toxic to cats are also toxic to dogs. Beautiful bulb flowers can cause problems for your dog if ingested. Dogs that like to dig are especially at risk, as the most toxic part of these flowers is the bulb itself. Lilies, daffodils, Narcissus and hyacinths can trigger upset stomach, tremors, mood changes and even coma or death if consumed.
The sago palm, commonly used in landscaping, contains a toxin called cycasin. This toxin can be fatal if ingested, even if your dog only chews on a single seed.
The azalea bush is a pretty, ornamental flowering shrub that comes in a variety of colors, like pink and white. Despite its pleasant appearance, azaleas are plants toxic to dogs; if your pooch chews on a few leaves, he’ll experience gastrointestinal troubles, weakness and paralysis.
Dogs can also experience stomach troubles because of garden soil itself. There are often all sorts of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and manure products in gardens; dogs should be discouraged from digging in this soil.
If the warmer, damper weather brings a bumper crop of mushrooms in your front yard, be careful. Many varieties of mushrooms are poisonous plants for dogs. Remove mushrooms from your yard before your dogs have a chance to gnaw on them.
List of Dangerous Plants
Here is a list of plants that are known to be toxic to either cats or dogs:
- Amaryllis (Amaryllis sp.)
- Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)
- Azaleas and Rhododendrons (Rhododendron sp.)
- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
- Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
- Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum sp.)
- Chrysanthemum (Compositae spp.)
- Cyclamen (Cyclamen sp.)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Flower bulbs of any type
- Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
- Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe sp.)
- Lilies (Lilium sp.)
- Mistletoe (Viscum album)
- Oleander (Nerium oleander)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
- Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
- Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum)
- Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
- Schefflera (Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla)
- Spanish thyme (Coleus ampoinicus)
- Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)
- Tulip and Narcissus bulbs (Tulipa and Narcissus sp.)
- Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- Yew (Taxus sp.)
Signs of a Reaction
While many flowers are safe for cats and dogs, it’s important to keep an eye on super-curious pets who are prone to chewing and digging.
If your cat or dog is experiencing symptoms such as vomiting, gagging, a swollen and painful belly, lack of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea or constipation, and general unrest, he may have eaten something poisonous. Do not wait—go to the veterinarian immediately. If it’s late at night or on the weekend, you may need to go to a 24-hour emergency vet.
“When you go to the vet, bring the plant, or at least take a picture of it with your phone,” says Dr. Coger. “If you have the exact scientific name, even better. Your vet may need to contact animal poison control or other references for treatment advice.”
Dr. Coger says that treatment depends on the plant consumed. “If your pet comes in with an allergic reaction, we may need to induce vomiting,” she explains. “But other times, we’ll have to begin supportive care, such as increasing fluids, giving anti-nausea medications, prescribing activated charcoal or other medications to block toxin absorption.”
Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies include trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he’s a dog, Ferguson.