Toxic Plants for Pets and What to Do if You Have Them

When you bring a new pet home, it takes some time to explore his or her new surroundings. There are some things in your home that innately you know you must pet proof, but one item that you might not consider is your plant collection, and overlooking this one can prove costly. Both inside and outside plants need to be considered. Why? Some plants can be extremely toxic to our pets if ingested, or they could cause dermal irritation if touched. If your pet is not naturally curious, it might take him a while to stumble upon the unsafe plants. If indeed you so have one and your pet finally discovers it while they are home alone, the consequences could be devastating.

While this list covers quite a few plants that might prove problematic, please know that it is not an exhaustive list, so if you have questions about particular plants in or around your home, please search on the ASPCA website for more detailed information.




Toxic Plants for Pets

Lily Plants

The Lily family of plants is large, and many of its members are toxic to dogs and cats for a variety of reasons. While wild growing lilies are uncommon, you might well come across some. They are extremely popular, however, in floral arrangements, and some people have them as houseplants, without even realizing it, as the lily family is so large and includes many plants you would not think of as being part of it. Let's look at some examples....Lily of the valley can cause cardiac symptoms, while other lily species cause acute kidney failure. The Peace Lily is toxic to dogs and cats, while Aloe vera, a popular house plant for humans because of the properties of its gel, can be harmful to pets if ingested. Did you know that Aloe Vera is a member of the lily family? If you have a dog in your home, it's probably best to play it safe and avoid all members of the lily family both indoors and out.


Azalea plants, also known as Rhododendron, are very common plants that can grow wild in yards and gardens. This is an important one to watch out for, because azaleas are highly toxic and can be fatal for your pet if ingested. The shrub contains a neurotoxin that can cause heart failure. Common symptoms after ingesting an azalea plant are vomiting and diarrhea. The next symptom would be labored breathing, and then coma. An azalea plant in or around your home is simply unsafe in the presence of a pet.

Regular Ivy

While we are aware of the dangers of Poison Ivy to humans, did you know even regular Ivy can be harmful to a pet? A pet can develop a rash or breathing problems if they ingest the ivy plant. The worst symptoms of ivy ingestion are coma or paralysis. While ivy looks pretty, cascading out of a planter, or falling down a brick wall, its leaves are deadly to your pet. Many varieties of ivy contain toxins, which cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Be very cautious if you do have ivy in your yard, making sure that it is a safe variety for your pets to be around. 

Pothos Plant

Devil’s Ivy or Satin/Silk Pothos plant is toxic to dogs and cats. It can cause irritation in the mouth and tongue with symptoms such as vomiting, salivation and swallowing difficulties. Pothos is a hard-to-kill houseplant with very few needs which makes it popular in many homes, but calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves can irritate your pet’s mouth and cause swelling and burning.




How to Protect Your Pet From Toxic Plants

Only Keep Safe Plants

If you find out a plant in your home or garden is toxic, the safest thing to do is get rid of it. Give yourself peace of mind that when your pet is hanging out in your yard unsupervised or home alone, he will be safe. It's always a good idea to buy and keep plant that you are certain are 100% safe for your pets to be around. 

Build Barriers

While getting rid of any toxic plants might be the best course of action, for outside plants it may be easy to build barriers around them if it would be difficult to remove them for one reason or another. As long as you create barriers so your pet cannot access a dangerous plant you will probably not have to worry about them.

Place Houseplants Beyond Reach

This might prove an impossible task for a cat owner, but if a plant has certain sentimental value, you might be able to keep it beyond reach of a dog’s curious mouth. Try placing plants high on bookshelves or above kitchen cabinets. Be sure that if it’s the type of plant that cascades down, the leaves or flowers remain beyond your pet’s reach.


dog in yard


What to do if Your Pet has Ingested Toxic Plants

Symptomatic Pets

If you pet is symptomatic, take them straight to your emergency clinic. Symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty breathing or trembling. Time is critical if you suspect you're dealing with a poison situation, so you should go to the nearest clinic, even if it isn’t your regular one. If you are able, call to let them know you are on your way so they can expect to treat your pet right away.

Call Poison Control & Vet

If your pet doesn’t have symptoms and you didn’t witness them ingesting the plant but you see evidence that they could have, monitor them closely and call the ASPCA Poison Control Center, (888) 426-4435. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a specialist will be able to give you information on what to do next. After your phone call with poison control, you should call your veterinarian to let them know your concerns. If your pet has any other underlying medical conditions, your vet would be the best judge of whether your pet needs to be seen, even before symptoms occur.


dog with apple

As previously mentioned, this is not an exhaustive list of poisonous plants for dogs or poisonous plants for cats. It is, however, a great starting point to get you thinking about the plants both in your home and in your garden. Make sure to research any fruit or flowering plants in your garden, and remember that plants that are safe for human consumption aren’t necessarily safe for your pets.

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