On some level, every plant can disagree with a pet and cause some gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting. Even grass, one of the more common ingested flora can create mild discomfort and maybe vomiting. One website warns against 400 plants that make your cat sick to varying degrees, though you’re unlikely to encounter an octopus tree or oilcloth flower. Other toxic plants are more common.
Some major botanical villains that may be found in your yard (or given for holidays) include both Easter or true lilies and Sago palms. With true lilies, every part of most lilies endangers cats. This includes the flower’s pollen. Therefore, a cat who rubs his face on the flowers and then grooms himself can ingest the toxin. Effects may be seen within 24 hours but may also be delayed, so vets prefer to hospitalize cats for a couple of days to avert potential kidney damage (the most concerning consequence of lily ingestion). If you must keep lilies, try the Peruvian variety as they may cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested, but do not cause kidney damage. Another favorite found in many people’s yards is sago palm. While this is a beautiful plant to have in your garden, all parts of the plant are harmful if ingested. The bulb of the plant carries more of the toxin than the rest of the plant and can cause liver damage and seizures, if the dog eats enough of it. A simple rule of thumb would be to keep pets away from anything grown from a bulb.
Another favorite found in many people’s yards is sago palm. While this is a beautiful plant to have in your garden, all parts of the plant are harmful if ingested. The bulb of the plant carries more of the toxin than the rest of the plant. If a dog eats enough, it can cause liver damage and seizures. A simple rule of thumb would be to keep pets away from anything grown from a bulb.
While some of us have indoor only fur babies such as cats, indoor houseplants can also cause discomfort to your pets. Some common houseplants contain calcium oxalate crystals. Moisture in your pet’s mouth makes these crystals shoot out into the tongue or esophagus, causing discomfort and even foaming at the mouth. Offenders include Chinese evergreen (sometimes thought to be pet friendly), elephant ear, philodendron, calla lilies and peace lilies.
Folklore says a bright red color warns us against toxic mushrooms, but those in shades of brown or gray can also cause significant illness such as liver damage or death. If your dog eats one, it would be prudent to call the ASPCA Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435 for help in identification or visit a Facebook page titled “Poisons Help; Emergency Identification for Mushrooms and Plants” to get a quick ID and recommendations as to whether treatment or monitoring at home is indicated.
What To Do If You Suspect Poisoning
One episode of vomiting may not mean your pet is suffering from severe toxicities, however repeated vomiting, lethargy and a refusal to eat may signal a serious problem and warrant veterinary attention.
It is important not to induce vomiting yourself, unless your vet says to. Pre-emptive administration of hydrogen peroxide can cause esophageal ulcers or strictures, therefore it is wise to only do this under veterinary supervision. Do however attempt to identify the plant as this will be important in identified potential illness from the toxins if present. If you are unsure what the plant is, try one of the options above. (Try the Facebook site for plant identification while waiting for ASPCA Poison Control if there are high call volumes.) Do bring a sample of the seed, leaf or branch to the vet if able.
How Vets Deal with Pets Ingesting Toxic Plants
Decontamination remains the first line of defense: Getting toxic material out of your pet or binding it to some substance, often activated charcoal, prevents the system from absorbing it. Your pet may stay overnight, potentially on an IV, so vets can monitor blood panels and monitor organs potentially affected while helping to flush the toxins out as well as rehydrate your pet using the IV fluids.
Long-term harm may require long-term treatment including potential medications, changes in diet, and regular monitoring of blood work. But even a particularly poisonous plant may not cause long term damage, if there is a quick enough respond to the emergency.
CARE operates as the animal version of a medical center for humans, providing all forms of treatment for pets through emergency care 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. It also offers board-certified specialty care, once you get a referral from your primary veterinarian. Take a visual tour of the practice at carecharlotte.com/tour.