Gardening with Pets

Spring is just around the corner and everyone loves growing new flowers and plants in their backyard. Many of those new blooms are very appealing not only to us but to our pets.

What would-be gardeners may not know is that many plants are also extremely toxic to our four-legged friends, and have been known to cause irritation, pain, illness and even death. It is very important that gardeners with pets are aware of these dangerous plants to keep our animals and environment healthy. Here is a list of the ten most common garden plants that are toxic to our dogs and cats. Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list, and there are many other plants that can harm your pets.

If you are unsure about whether a plant is dangerous for your pet, just ask one of the Horticulture staff at the Chattahoochee Nature Center – they know lots about all kinds of plants and uses. One way to speak with them is at the Spring Native Plant Sale, March 31, April 1, 2, 7, 8.

  1. Azaleas and Rhododendrons


Azaleas are actually a type of Rhododendron, and there are over 1,000 species. These plants contain grayanotoxins which disrupt sodium channels affecting the skeletal and cardiac muscle. All parts of these flowers, and all types of azaleas are dangerous to both dogs and cats. If ingested, side effects include gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and central nervous system disruptions. The toxicity of rhododendrons depends on its hybridization with other species, including azaleas. All parts of the plant are hazardous, and ingesting only .2% of an animal’s body weight can result in poisoning.

2. Tulips and Tulip Bulbs


Tulips are toxic to both dogs and cats. Tulips contain allergenic lactones or similar alkaloids. The toxic chemicals in tulips are most concentrated in bulbs, and are very dangerous to pets when consumed in large amounts. Signs include tissue irritation to the mouth and esophagus, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, changes in respiration and difficulty breathing.

3. Daffodils


Daffodils contain contain lycorine, an alkaloid with properties that cause severe tissue irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. These chemicals are found in the outer bulb and are very toxic to both dogs and cats.

4. Mums


Mums are toxic to dogs and cats, but the side effects are relatively mild and include vomiting and a loss of appetite.

5. Holly (Berries and Leaves)


Varieties of holly contain saponins, and cause gastrointestinal problems for dogs and cats. Varieties of holly including English, Japanese, and Chinese Holly are toxic to dogs and cats, and can cause gastrointestinal problems for pets.

6. Nandina (AKA Sacred Bamboo or Heavenly Bamboo)


Not only are these popular landscape plants harmful to our pets, but they are also extremely poisonous to birds. The colorful berries contain hydrogen cyanide which is extremely toxic to all animals. Birds are attracted to the berries when food supply is low, and many studies have shown that consuming the berries cause the birds to have hemorrhaging in the heart, lungs, trachea, abdominal cavity and other organs.

7. Oleander Shrubs


Oleander is toxic to cats, dogs, horses, cows, and even birds. Oleander is typically grown in warm locations, and all parts of the plant are toxic. Oleander contains naturally-occurring poisons that affect the heart.

8. Hydrangeas


Hydrangeas are dangerous to dogs, cats and horses. Hydrangeas contain Cyanogenic glycoside, which causes gastrointestinal disturbance.

9. Ivy

Ivy Leaves - climbing garedn wall UK

Certain types of ivy contain triterpenoid saponins and polyacetylene compounds which causes drooling, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. Some types of ivy that are poisonous to dogs and cats include Sweetheart ivy, Glacier ivy, Needlepoint ivy and Branching ivy.

10. Wisterias


Wisteria is dangerous to dogs and cats. Its toxic principles are Lectin and wisterin glycoside, which causes vomitting, diarrhea and depression.

While many of these plants and flowers are very appealing and would look great in your backyard this spring, it is important to remember to keep your pet’s health in mind when choosing what to plant.

If your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, contact your veterinarian immediately or call the ASPCA 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435. You can also learn more about toxic substances for your pets at Pet Poison Helpline.

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