Toxic Plants for Pets

MOSAIC Group Guest Blog Post: Mary Kay Woodworth, executive director, MALTA (The Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association)

If you’ve got a green thumb and are a pet owner, it’s a good idea to take inventory of the plants and foliage both inside and around your home. The Humane Society of the United States has identified more than 700 plants that can be dangerous to pets. The effects of these plants identified as poisonous range from mild nausea to death. Vulnerability to plant toxicities depends on pet species, the amount ingested and the size of your pet.

It could be difficult to identify every type of plant that is toxic at some level, but if you’re a pet owner, it’s important to learn which plants could potentially result in heart, central nervous system and kidney damage. For example, while poinsettias can certainly cause minor gastrointestinal issues in cats, lilies are often deadly.
In some cases, the entire plant is toxic, but often it may just be the bulb, stem, leaf or petal of the plant that is poisonous. If you have any question about which part of the plant is toxic, your veterinarian or the Humane Society’s website can help you. As a general rule, if you’ve got pets, it’s probably a good rule of them to avoid those that have been identified as toxic.   
Lilies, like many plants and flowers, are toxic in small amounts. Lilies might smell fabulous but these particular blooms are incredibly lethal and can lead to heart and renal failure. (Signs of toxicity might include rapid breathing, racing or irregular pulse, cold extremities, vomiting and lethargy.)
Some plants are not that toxic unless pets have ingested a large amount — and at that point in time, it could become fatal. As a general rule, if you even think your pet nibbled on one of your plants, call your veterinarian because some of these toxins act very quickly. Don’t forget to bring a sample of the plant to the veterinarian’s office for identification, as well as an estimate as to how much the pet ate.
Plant species that pet owners should exclude from flowerbeds and indoors to protect pets include (but are not limited to):
Aloe vera, amaryllis, autumn crocus, azalea, calla lily, cyclamen, daylily, dieffenbachia, Easter lily, elephant’s ear, English ivy, foxglove, hyacinth, hydrangea, Japanese pieris, kalanchoe, morning glory, oleander, philodendron, rhododendron, tiger lily and yew.
A very thorough list of indoor and outdoor plants and other toxic household items can be found at www.petpoisonhelpline.com. If you believe your pet ingested poison, you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-800-213-6680.