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Keeping dogs safe from toxic plants

Keeping dogs safe from toxic plants

Green thumbs will often go to great lengths to guard their plants from pets, but dog owners also need to be mindful of the potential dangers growing within garden beds.

One of the most common emergencies vets encounter in their clinics are dogs that have ingested toxic plants. A surprisingly long list of popular plants are poisonous to dogs, and ingestion can cause a range of symptoms from skin irritations, to vomiting and diarrhoea, paralysis, convulsions and even death.
If you suspect that your dog has consumed a toxic plant, take it to a vet immediately.

It’s also helpful to take a piece of the suspected plant (or a photo) for your vet to identify the culprit.

Dangerous plants commonly found in suburban homes and gardens include (but are not limited to):

  • Aloe Vera
  • Apocynum Cannabinum (American Dogbone)
  • Brugmansia (Angels Trumpet)
  • Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow)
  • Cherries
  • Colocasia (Elephants’ Ear)
  • Convallaria Majalis (Lily of the Valley)
  • Cycas Revoluta (Cycads or Japanese Sago Palm)
  • Cyclamen (Persian Violet)
  • Daphne
  • Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)
  • Digitalis Purpurea (Foxglove)
  • Elderberry
  • Eucalyptus
  • Eupatorium Rugosum (White Snakeroot)
  • Euphorbia (Poinsettia)
  • Gelsemium Sempervirens (Yellow Jasmine or Jessamine)
  • Hedera Helix (English Ivy)
  • Hydrangea
  • Hyacinth
  • Laburnum Anaagyroides (Golden Chain)
  • Lantana
  • Lillies
  • Macadamia nut
  • Madagascar Jasmine (Stephanotis)
  • Monstera
  • Narcissus (Daffodils)
  • Oleander
  • Philodendron (Fiddle Leaf Fig)
  • Ranunculus (Buttercups)
  • Rhododendron (Azalea)
  • Rhubarb
  • Sansevieria Trifasciata (Snake plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)
  • Solanum (Nightshade)
  • Stinging nettles
  • Tradescantia Albiflora (Wandering Jew)
  • Wisteria

Of that list, the Cycas Revoluta (Cycads or Japanese Sago Palm), is particularly nasty. Symptoms usually appear within 12 hours of a dog ingesting its seeds. Liver failure is possible without treatment.

The Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) is also highly toxic, and ingestion can result in multiple seizures, tremors and loss of mobility. While the Digitalis Purpurea (Foxglove) can cause cardiac problems and death.

Most of the plants on the toxic list are introduced species, but even Australian natives such as the Eucalyptus can pose a threat. Ingestion of Eucalyptus oil can cause gastrointestinal problems, loss of mobility and seizures in dogs.
How to stop dogs ingesting plants

With such a large number of plants posing potential danger, it’s not a realistic option for many pet owners to simply cull the threatening flora from their gardens. Even if your own space is free from nasties, your dog will inevitably encounter dangers on neighbourhood walks.

However, it is possible to keep our pets safe, even when surrounded by poisonous plants.

Options include:

  • Setting up distractions: Most dogs nibble plants because they are feeling bored or curious. Creating interesting environments with distractions such as toys and food treats, can divert your pets’ attention from the garden.
  • Fencing off danger zones: If you can’t afford permanent solid fencing, chicken wire is a cheap option to protect your plants and pets from each other. Puppies and dogs can also be contained inside with the help of security gates like those designed for toddlers.
  • Containing your pet: If you can’t contain your plants, consider short-term containment of mischievous dogs inside crates, or indoors (with house plants positioned out-of-reach).
  • Deterrents: You could try timed irrigation systems in the garden for pets that do not enjoy being sprayed with water. Commercial plant-friendly deterrent spray products are also an option.
  • Training: Investigate specific training methods to teach your dog to stay away from plants. Practise and patience are the key to any training success.

Dog-friendly plants

If you do have the luxury of starting a garden from scratch, you can actively seek out specific pet-friendly plants to create a safe haven. Or, if you only have a few problem plants in the garden, it may be easy to replace them with dog-friendly options.

Pet-safe plants include (but are not limited to):

  • Antirrhinum (Snapdragons)
  • Asplenium Nidus (Birds’ Nest Fern)
  • Beaucarnea Recurvata (Ponytail Palm)
  • Bromeliads
  • Calathea Lancifola (Rattlesnake Plant)
  • Calathea Orbifolia (Prayer Plant)
  • Camellias
  • Chamaedorea Elegans (Parlour Palm)
  • Chlorophytum Comosum (Spider plant)
  • Fuchsias
  • Herbs: Dill, thyme, basil, rosemary etc
  • Hypoestes Phyllostachya (Polkadot Plant)
  • Magnolias
  • Nasturtium (Indian Cress)
  • Nephrolepsis Exaltata (Boston fern)
  • Orchids
  • Phyllostachys Aurea (Bamboo)
  • Saintpaulia (African Violet)
  • Sinningia Speciosa (Gloxinia)
  • Sunflowers
  • Tagetes minuta (Marigolds)

Despite the list of ‘pet-safe’ plants, your dog’s safest option is to avoid eating any plants at all.

Plants and pets can exist harmoniously, but always remember to seek veterinary assistance if your pet is unwell, regardless of what they have or haven’t been munching.

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