HEALTH & CARE

Poisonous Plants for Dogs: Learn to Protect Your Pooch in Nature

Poisonous Plants for Dogs
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

You can help avoid the dangers presented by poisonous plants for dogs by knowing what they are and what kinds of effects they trigger on your pet. Although dogs can be naturally averse to such plants, there are times when they unwittingly get into contact with them or even eat them out of curiosity or fun. Some of these dogs may even be ignorant of these plants particularly puppies. These plants can cause from mild to lethal toxic effects so it is important to know what they are. Your knowledge can help save you and your pet from future health problems and heartaches.

Dogs are naturally playful and they like to wander around especially in areas that they are not that familiar with. Hence, it is very common to see dogs especially those with a natural prey drive to roam around forested areas or even wander out of the way whenever they meet grassy patches of land.

There are plants that we know are not safe even for humans but there are also less familiar ones which your dog can accidentally eat that you may not be aware of. To help you avoid such situations, here is a list of poisonous plants for dogs that you need to know about.

Poisonous Plants for Dogs

Belladonna or Nightshade – This type of plant have dark purplish flowers and dark, shiny berries. They are known for their bell-shaped flowers. This plant has toxic properties in their leaves and roots but most of all in their fruits which are the most commonly ingested part of the plant. It contains atropine which affects the role of acetylcholine in the neural system and causes in turn a continual stimulation of the nerve impulses. You will know if your dog has ingested belladonna if he or she shows the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Thirst
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach upset
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slow heart rate

Exposure of the skin to the leaves and fruit of belladonna can also cause itching and scaling.

Nightshade

It is not easy to treat belladonna poisoning so it would be best to bring your dog quickly to a veterinarian so he could administer the proper medication. Delaying could end in your pet’s death.

Rhubarb leaves – Another well-known toxic plant is rhubarb. This is a very common plant since its stalk is generally mixed in a variety of dishes. Although the supermarket rhubarbs are often delivered without the leaves, there are some which still have it on. There are also people who prefer to raise their own rhubarbs in their gardens. You will know that it is rhubarb with its red and fleshy stalks as well as its broad green leaves and red midsections.

What makes this plant so toxic is its leaves that contain oxalic acid which is a very corrosive type of acid. It damages blood vessels that it passes and it damages organs more important the kidneys. These damages are often irreversible and can cause fatalities if the leaves are ingested in large amounts. Signs of rhubarb poisoning include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Staggering
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Convulsion

Since rhubarb leaves contain corrosive acids, it is important not to induce vomiting in your pet.

Rhubarb leaves and dog

Bring your dog to a veterinarian immediately. Wash any body part which had been exposed to the leaves.

Tulip Bulbs – Another common plant that can cause poisoning in your pet are tulips. Although these plants have lovely flowers and anyone would love to plant them at home, you should be wary of the idea if you are a dog owner. All parts of the tulip plant are poisonous but the most toxic part of this plant is in the bulbs which are used in planting. If you are planning to keep the bulbs for the next batch of tulips that you want to raise, make sure that your dog will not be able to reach them.

Tulips contain glycosides which are known to have corrosive properties once they are digested. They attack the digestive tract at first and then the other major organs. Symptoms of tulip poisoning include:

  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Cardiac problems
  • Convulsion

The level of toxicity in this plant depends on which part has been ingested by your pet.

Tulip Bulbs and a dog

The flower and the stem do not contain much but if they ate the bulbs, they will definitely be suffering more serious symptoms and which can even lead to death. Rinse your dog’s mouth with water and bring him to the veterinarian for immediate treatment.

Azalea – This plant is known for its lovely pink flowers which can definitely make any garden look colorful due to the huge number of flowers that a single plant can provide. You may want to keep this in your garden but if you want to protect your dog you might as well stay away from it. This is due to the substance, grayanotoxin, which affects the receptors in the cells causing them to be continually stimulated. All parts of the azalea plant are considered to be toxic especially if ingested. Signs of poisoning include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Loss of coordination

Activated charcoal can help absorb some of the toxins in your pet’s digestive tract but it is extremely important to bring them to a vet in order to prevent more serious complications that can lead to death. IV fluids are important to help flush out the toxins and to prevent dehydration.

Azalea and dogs

Your vet can best administer the right treatment to regulate your pet’s heart rate.

Hydrangea – This plant is well known for its colorful heads of flowers which can range from bluish to purplish colors. They are definitely prized for their beauty but if you want to keep them, you may as well keep them out of your pet’s reach. Their leaves and flower buds contain substances that are converted to cyanide once they are digested. Cyanide interferes with the production of adenosine tri-phosphate which is the energy source for cells. When it reaches the vital organs and especially the nervous system, this could only mean death. Some of the signs of hydrangea poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stools
  • High body temperature
  • Very red gums
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Seizures

Cyanide is a fast acting toxin so it is important to provide immediate veterinary care for your pet.

Hydrangea plant

Never allow your pet to come near a hydrangea as this can tempt them to chew on the leaves. Delaying treatment can lead to your pet’s death especially if they had ingested large quantities of the leaves or buds.

Oleander – This is a tall plant with narrow leaves and has beautiful pinkish clusters of flowers. This is often grown as an ornamental plant with a lot of dog owners not knowing how toxic this could be to their pets. Although you can see some birds feeding on this plant and not having any adverse reactions, it can actually cause gastric irritation on your pets if ingested.

This plant contains oleandrin which is a type of cardiac glycoside. All parts of the oleander plant contain this substance therefore all of its parts are toxic. This causes damage in the digestive tract, the heart, and the central nervous system. Some of its symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Digestive upset
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures and collapsing

If large quantities of the leaves or the flowers are ingested, the toxicity can be very high and can lead to coma and death.

Dog in Oleander field

You can administer activated charcoal and water in order to alleviate the symptoms but veterinary care is still the best solution.

Asparagus Fern – Asparagus ferns are well-known for their fine leaves which are good for making corsages and other floral arrangements. They are also kept as ornamental plants due to their thick foliage. Although this is a lovely plant, it is actually a toxic plant. It contains saponin which is irritates the skin and any surface that comes into contact with it. Its most toxic parts are the berries as well as the sap which oozes out of the stem when it is cut. Symptoms of asparagus poisoning include:

  • Blisters
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal upsets

Even if you hang this plant out of reach of your dog it can still present some risks due to falling berries.

Asparagus Fern

The best way to avoid this situation is to not have them at home. Although this can cause mild to moderate toxicity, it is still necessary to bring your pet to the vet in order to prevent serious damage to internal organs.

Foxglove – Foxgloves are definitely one of the most toxic plants for dogs and for people as well. They are tall slender plants that grow clusters of bell-shaped flowers. Although they are very beautiful to look at, this plant is actually highly toxic to almost any type of animal. It contains digoxin which increases the contractions of the heart and thus increasing heart rate. Even though this can is used as a cure for people with heart problems, it can actually cause death in an organism with a normal heart rate. Symptoms of foxglove poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Heart failure

Veterinary care is the best treatment for this type of poisoning since it can act really fast.

Foxglove plant

They will also have the proper medication that can help control the effects of digoxin and lessen possible damage on the heart.

Peace Lilies – These are one of the most beautiful lilies due to their immaculate white flowers. These plants have broad leaves and are often grown as an ornamental plant. What people don’t know is that these plants contain calcium oxalate which is corrosive and can prove to be lethal if ingested in high quantities. These substances are released by the plant whenever the leaves or the flowers are bruised.

Peace Lilies and other harmful plants

Signs of poisoning by peace lilies include:

  • Drooling
  • Swelling of parts of the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Renal failure
  • Coma

You will also know if your dog has come into contact with this plant if they are itching and have red swollen patches on their skin. Calcium oxalate is known to damage the kidneys and once this organ had been damages, it would be impossible to restore proper functioning. The best treatment therefore is to not have the plant at home in the first place. In case of contact, bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately in order to relieve the symptoms and the effects on the organs.

Mistletoe – These are parasitic plants that attach themselves to trees and live off on their host’s nutrients. They are known for their elongated leaves as well as their white or red berries which become more noticeable during the winter. Although this can be hard to reach for most pets, their berries can fall to the ground and your pet could eat them.

Keep your dog away from mistletoe

The berries contain alkaloids which can irritate the gastric tract when ingested. Symptoms of mistletoe poisoning are:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Abdominal pain
  • Collapse

Mistletoe berries contain a host of other substances which contributes to its toxicity. Thus, it is not easy to provide one single treatment to alleviate symptoms. Bring your pet to their veterinarian for immediate treatment.

Amaryllis – This is a love flowering bulb plant that is well-known for its colorful medium-sized flowers. The flowers grow on a stalk and the plant can bear about two or more for each stalk. The toxin contained in this plant is concentrated in its bulbs which are used for growing them. If you are planning to have this plant, just make sure that it is out of reach of your pet.

Although this is a moderately toxic plant, ingesting large amounts of the poison can lead to serious consequences. The bulbs contain lycorine which inhibits protein synthesis in the body. Some of its symptoms include:

  • Increased salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tremors
  • Depression

One of the best ways to deal with this is fluid replacement which can be done either orally or intravenously.

Amaryllis

Give your dog a lot of water as a first aid and then bring them to the vet for further treatment. If he or she had ingested a lot of bulbs, it could lead to lethal consequences. It is therefore best to keep this plant away from your dog as much as possible.

Cyclamens – These plants have beautiful small flowers that grow taller than the leaves. They are kept as ornamental plants due to their wide range of colors as well as interesting floral arrangement. They can be wild or grown at home and your pets can be easily exposed to their toxins. The plant contains a substance known as saponins which irritate the gastrointestinal lining. Skin exposure to this substance can also cause itching and swelling. You will know if your dog is exposed to this toxin if they show the following symptoms:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizure
  • Abnormal heart rates

All the parts of this plant are toxic although the roots are its most poisonous part. If your pet had ingested a large amount of this substance make sure to bring them to your local veterinarian immediately to avoid fatalities. The best way to avoid this from happening is to move the plant in an area that is inaccessible to your dog or not to plant it at home. Wash exposed areas of their body with water in order to remove saponin residues.

Cyclamens

Toxic plants can be found almost anywhere whether at the wild or right inside your home. It is not easy to protect your dog if you are not aware which plants are actually poisonous for your pet. Some of these plants are raised at home for ornamental purposes while others are spread through other mediums such as animals and wind.

You can help lessen your pet’s chances of being exposed to these types of plants by keeping them on a leash while you are walking in a grassy or forested area or by not having the plants at home.

Even though a plant can look innocent and even lovely to look at, it is never a guarantee that it is good both for you and your pet. Some of these seemingly beautiful plants can pose a great harm for your pet due to the type of substances that they secrete.

These toxic substances can affect vital organs such as the heart and the kidneys once they are ingested so make sure that you know what these plants are. Take good care on how your pets interact with plants. Choose the plants that you raise at home carefully in order to avoid accidents which can cost you your pet’s life.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Daisy Simmons

    This is a very informative article that I’m glad I read. I never considered the possibility that our dogs could poison themselves in traipsing through our garden. Turns out I’m an irresponsible pet owner! I will pretty much scout our garden tomorrow and look out for harmful plants, hopefully I will find little to non of the poisonous ones!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Yes, there are a lot of far too common plants that are found in the gardens and suburban areas that are poisonous to dogs, even the ones that we consider as harmless. This is why we curated this informative article because we do believe that this information should be well-distributed to all pet parents out there.

  • Kathy Peters

    I’m from Phoenix and there’s a lot of Oleander plants in our area. This plant is on the top 5 list of toxic plants for dogs. Imagine, a single leaf could kill a hundred pound dog! Hope we can all be vigilant especially with plants in our own gardens.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Oleanders are quite common in warmer states and as you’ve said, pet parents should really be extra careful when having their dogs for a walk or if they actually have this plant in their lawn. It is highly toxic and can cause significant harm, even death, to our dogs.

  • Amy Chase

    While citrus isn’t starkly toxic, as far as I was informed, pets who ingest it are prone to have irritated tummies. Not to mention the fact that they are pretty toxic in very large amounts. I just take caution when we encounter citrus since it’s pretty unhealthy for the pooches and other pets to ingest!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      In general, food items that are given in excess are potentially dangerous. Citrus for example, has a very thin margin because it contains toxic compounds that have been proven to be harmful to dogs. They may sound healthy, but the truth is they are not.

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