As the weather gets warmer - rejoice! - and we spend more time outside with our pets, we need to be mindful of plants that can harm our dogs, cats and horses if eaten. The ASPCA provides a comprehensive list of toxic plants, broken out for each animal or in total, with pictures and scientific classification; but we wanted to simplify this list a bit for our Northern New Jersey audience. This post contains some of the most common and harmful plants found outdoors in our neck of the woods.
Very common to many North American gardens - and very toxic for pets to eat - are tulips, daffodils, lilies and azaleas. Dr. Dana Koch explains that tulips contain glycosides which can damage the mouth and esophagus; daffodils contain lycorine which is tough on the tummy; lilies can cause kidney failure in cats; and azaleas "contain grayanotoxins which disrupt the sodium channels involved in the normal functioning of... (the) heart muscle." Other common toxic flowers include: amaryllis, crocus, rhododendron and oleander.
Green Plants With Berries
Yew is a fairly common toxic plant in New Jersey. If ingested, yew can cause drooling, vomiting, weakness, seizures, coma or even death in dogs, cats and other animals. According to PetPoisonHelpline.com, yew is evergreen and therefore something to be mindful of year round.
You should also watch out for the berries of mistletoe, holly and grapevines, among other fruity plants. While beautiful, these fruits are often life-threatening to dogs if eaten.
Green Ground Cover
English ivy is a popular ground covering green plant, and also a common house plant. The ASPCA warns that dogs and cats can suffer vomiting and diarrhea among other symptoms if they eat the leaves of the ivy plant. Poison ivy is also toxic to pets, but not in exactly the same way it is to humans. While some pets can contract itchy skin from poison ivy, they are more likely to spread the poison to you through contact. If they eat poison ivy, explains PetPoisonHelpline.com, the abdominal symptoms are usually mild.
Outdoor pets are often difficult to monitor when it comes to plant ingestion. If your cat roams your garden - or even tries to eat your houseplants - you can try spritzing a fragrance cats don't like near the plants they shouldn't eat. Bitter apple and citrus are scents that cats generally detest. Be careful, however: the method of using aroma aversion only works if 1. your cat does, in fact, hate the deterring scent you're using and 2. you keep applying the scent as often as it wears off.
For dogs who exhibit pica - the term for eating things that aren't traditionally thought of as food - and have a tendency to eat grass, you'll need to monitor them during their outdoor adventures to make sure that grass (which is generally harmless to them) doesn't transition to other green plants such as ivy or philodendron.
If you take steps to keep toxic plants out of your home and garden and away from your pets, chances are they won't eat them. But there's always a chance that an outdoor cat will stray to a neighboring garden or a dog on a leash might scoff up something poisonous before you have a chance to stop him or her. The most common immediate symptoms of toxicity include heavy breathing and drooling. If you suspect poison, call your vet immediately. Do not wait!