While plants can make a lovely decorating statement, poisonous plants can kill pets. The deadliest plants must be chewed or swallowed for the poison to work. Even some of the most common decorative plants and flowers, such as daffodils and tulips, have parts that can be deadly to dogs.
Pet plant poisoning is a veterinary emergency that requires immediate medical attention. But you can save your pet’s life simply by steering clear of the worst plant offenders, both inside and outside your home.
What Dogs Are at Risk for Plant Poisoning?
Puppies are affected most often, particularly breeds that eat anything that doesn’t move faster than they do. Paws, mouths, and sometimes ears and eyes also are vulnerable to spiky parts of plants. Even something that isn't inherently poisonous can be dangerous too; swallowed Christmas tree needles, for example, can damage to the tender insides of a puppy.
Dangerous Holiday Plants and Symptoms
There are many plants like poinsettias that cause only mild problems, such as excess salivation or mouth discomfort. Keeping these out of reach of curious paws may be sufficient to protect your pups. Others, like mistletoe, can kill your puppy if he eats just one or two berries.
In the spring, popular Easter flowers pose the greatest risks. Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily and some species of the day lily can cause kidney failure. Vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite may appear within a few hours and will continue to worsen as damage to the kidneys progresses.
Without prompt and proper treatment, kidney failure can develop in 36 to 72 hours. All parts of the lily are considered toxic. Consuming even small amounts can be life-threatening for cats, and lilies can poison your puppies, too.
Treatment for Puppy Plant Poisoning
Different plant poisons require very specific first aid. Usually, that will be to either induce vomiting or give milk or water to wash out the mouth, neutralize the poison and/or dilute the toxicity.
Making the pet vomit the wrong poisonous plant, though, could make a serious situation even more deadly, so you must know what to do for each type of plant. If you're not sure, you should definitely consult your veterinarian.
The following is a list of some of the most dangerous houseplants and symptoms of poisoning. If you see your puppy eat these plants, make him vomit right away.
- Belladonna, datura, henbane, jessamine, jimsonweed: Red and dry skin, fever, seizures, thirst, dilated pupils.
- Crown of thorns, English ivy: Thirst, vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain, death in one to two days.
- Daffodil, tulip, wisteria bulbs: Depression, violent vomiting.
- Foxglove, larkspur, lily of the valley, monkshood, oleander: Depression, bloody diarrhea, fast or slow heart rate, stomach pain, coma, death.
- Holly: Stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Lily: Excess urination and drinking from kidney failure.
- Mistletoe: Vomiting, diarrhea, slowed breathing and heart rate.
- Rhubarb: Vomiting, drooling, stomach pain, convulsions, kidney damage.
- Yew: Muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, sudden death without signs.
With these plant poisons, vomiting may make the problems worse. Instead, if you see the puppy eat these plants, give lots of water or milk to dilute the poison and to wash and coat the stomach.
- Azalea: Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and death
- Caladium, dieffenbachia, philodendron: Tongue and throat swell, difficulty breathing
- Mother-in-law’s tongue (snake plant): Mouth irritation to collapse
- Jerusalem cherry, nightshade, potato (green parts/eyes): Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, trembling, weakness
If you see your pet with one or more of these signs, particularly if a suspect plant is within paw or nibble reach, get help immediately. First aid can save the puppy’s life. Then take the pet to see the veterinarian as soon as possible.
How to Force Vomiting if Your Dog is Poisoned
It's important to stress that you should consult with your veterinarian or an animal control center before giving your pet anything to induce vomiting. Most vets recommend avoiding ipecac or salt, two old-fashioned methods used on children. Both have serious side effects.
The other tried-and-true method of inducing vomiting in a human, putting your finger down your throat to activate the gag reflex, is also not recommended for getting a dog to throw up. You're likely to get bitten for your trouble, and it can hurt the dog.
The only home remedy recommended by veterinarians to induce vomiting in a dog is a solution of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and water. Use an eyedropper or turkey baster to administer the solution slowly. It will foam a bit, and your puppy may not like the taste, but it should cause him to vomit within a few minutes.
Ask your veterinarian how much of the solution to give, and what the ratio of hydrogen peroxide to water should be. You may need to repeat the dose more than once.
Seek Medical Advice for Dog Poisoning
You’ll also need to be ready to administer rescue breathing if necessary. When there’s a question about what first-aid to offer, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center for accurate advice.
ASPCA Animal Poison-Control Center provides a database of common pet poisons and is available for telephone consultations (1-888-426-4435) in a case of a poisoning emergency. The fee can be charged to your credit card.
While there are ways to treat accidental poisoning in your pet, preventing plant poisoning is ideal. Choose only pet-friendly varieties for your garden and home.