There is a surprisingly large number of plant species that render themselves poisonous to our furry companions. Although some are more toxic than others, it’s important to survey your garden, identify these perilous plants and either restrict or remove them for the safety and wellbeing of your pet.
Did you know that by either adding bran flakes to your pets’ food or including more vegetable fibres in their diet, they may be less inclined to seek out your garden vegetation?
A practical way to assess the most common of these poisonous plants is to classify them according to which system in the body they affect:
Melia azedarach (Syringa berry tree)
Alternative common names: Seringa; Persian lilac; bead tree; berry tree; Cape lilac; China berry; China tree; white cedar (English), maksering; sering; bessieboom (Afrikaans), umsilinga (isiZulu)
Why?: The leaves, bark, flowers and ripe fruits of the Syringa berry tree are poisonous, with the berries containing the highest concentration of meliatoxins, causing a high mortality rate in affected animals who eat the fallen berries.
Alternative common names: “Marijuana” or Dagga” plant
Why?: It’s the THC in the plants leaves that cause intoxication in animals when they either ingest the actual plant, or ingest the owners supply of the dried leaves, or products make form the leaves like cookies or other edibles. Second hand Marijuana smoke is effects pets.
Alternative common names: Panther Cap and False Blusher
Why?: Amanita Pantherina or “Panther Cap” is extremely poisonous. They grow under large trees in South Africa and are thought to have been accidentally introduced with trees imported from Europe. They typically flush when the temperature drops after good rain.
Alternative common names: Devil’s trumpets, Moonflowers, Jimsonweed, Devil’s Weed, Hell’s Bells, Thorn-apple
Why?: An annual weed with prickly fruit consisting of tiny pitted seeds. All species of Datura are poisonous, especially their seeds and flowers.
Did you know? Angel trumpets (Brugmansia spp.) are closely related to Daturas and are also highly toxic. These beautiful woody trees and shrubs are nevertheless popular ornamentals throughout the world.
Brunfelsia pauciflora (Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow)
Alternative common names: Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow, Morning-noon-and-night, Kiss Me Quick, Brazil Raintree
Why?: Brunfelsia pauciflora is a species of flowering plant in the family Solanaceae, the nightshades. All parts of this plant can be poisonous to pets but it is often the seed pods falling off the tree that are particularly attractive and often eaten.
- muscle tremors and/or spasms
- respiratory difficulties
- excitement alternating with depression
- excessive barking
- staggering gait
- dry mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth
- increased respiration rate or constant panting
- ataxia (loss of coordination of the limbs, head, and/or trunk)
- digestive upsets
Alternative common names: Chincherinchee, Star-of-Bethlehem or Wonder-flower, Tjienkerientjee, Tjienk, Wit-tjienk, Viooltjie (Afr.)
Why?: A bulbous plant species that is endemic to the Cape Province in South Africa. Pets are effected when they chew on the plant and ingest it.
Ricinus communis (Castor-oil plant)
Alternative names: Castor Bean, Castor-oil-plant, Mole Bean Plant, African Wonder Tree
Why?: Castor seed is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contains ricin, a highly toxic component that inhibits protein synthesis; ingestion of as little as one ounce of seeds can be lethal. Ricin is also present in lower concentrations throughout the plant and is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.
All the plants in the Araceae family contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in their leaves and stems. Chewing or biting into this plants leaves or stem release sharp crystals which become embedded in the mucous membranes of their mouth and tongue causing severe pain and irritation of the mouth and GI tract.
Toxic plants included in this family are:
– Elephants Ear (Caladium, Malanga)
– Dumb Cane (Charming Dieffenbachia, Giant Dumb Cane, Tropic Snow, Exotica, Spotted Dumb Cane, Exotica Perfection)
– Delicious Monster
– Arum Lily (Calla Lily, Pig Lily, White Arum, Trumpet Lily, Florist’s Calla, Garden Calla)
Alternative names: kaffir lily, caffre lily, cape clivia, and klivia
Why? The flowers contain lycorine and other alkaloids that are toxic to cats when ingested. Although the bulb is considered the most toxic part of the plant, cat owners should not allow their cat to eat any part of this dangerous plant. Large quantities must be ingested to cause symptoms of toxicity however it’s estimated that complete kidney failure can occur within 24 to 72 hours after ingestion. Because of this, it is imperative you take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you recognize any of these symptoms or if you catch him in the act of eating the plant. There is no antidote for clivia poisoning, but there are other effective treatment methods available.
- acute diarrhoea
- multiple organ failure
- severe pain
- paralysis of the tongue
- excessive salivation
- difficulty swallowing because of a numb mouth and throat
Alternative names: Sago Palm, Fern Palm
Why?: Cycad palms produce three toxins: cycasin, beta-methylamino-L-alanine, and an unidentified toxin. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds contain higher levels of cycasin than other parts of the plant. Dogs usually ingest the seeds. Although toxic, the young leaves are palatable.
Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)
Alternative names: Cyanophyta
Why?: The most common species being Microcystis. Dogs are exposed to this species by drinking or swimming in water contaminated with it. Intoxication occurs when they groom themselves, subsequently ingesting the toxic algae.
Alternative names: Death cap mushroom
Why: One of the most poisonous of all know mushrooms, the death cap is extremely toxic to animals even when only a small amount is ingested. It’s toxins cause acute liver failure and can also damage other organs such as the kidneys and the intestinal tract. These toxic mushrooms resemble several edible species (caesar’s mushroom and the straw mushroom) commonly consumed by humans, increasing the risk of accidental poisoning. Amatoxins, the class of toxins found in these mushrooms, are thermostable: they resist changes due to heat, so their toxic effects are not reduced by cooking. Found growing under large trees like oak, chestnut and pine.
- appetite loss
- excessive salivation
- early symptoms can manifest themselves as gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, salivation and diarrhea
- permanent liver damage
All Lilies are toxic to cats so owners should make sure that their cats never have access to these plants. The entire plant is toxic and toxicity may occur when mouthing on or ingesting parts of the plant. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause kidney failure within 36 – 72 hours.
Toxic plants included in this family are:
– Asiatic lily
– Calla lily
– Day lily
– Easter lily
– Peace lily
The Peace lily is mildly toxic to animals when ingested. The peace lily is not a true lily from the Liliaceae family. True lilies are far more toxic to cats and dogs. The Peace lily contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritation, a burning sensation in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and nausea.
– Tiger lily
– Lily of the valley
Nephrotoxin in the above mentioned lilies can lead to renal failure within 24-72 hours of consumption. It only takes ingestion of one leaf to commence renal decline.
- Loss of appetite
- Increased urination, followed by a drastic reduction in urination for 1 – 2 days.
Oleander family of plants:
Alternative names: Nerium, Oleander
Why: Nerium oleander is one of the most poisonous commonly grown garden pants and is toxic in all its parts
Alternative names: Lucky nut
Why: All parts of the Yellow oleander plant are toxic to most vertebrates as they contain cardiac glycosides.
Alternative names: Foxgloves, Dead man’s bells, Witch’s gloves
Why: Depending on the species, the Digitalis plant may contain several deadly physiological and chemically related cardiac and steroidal glycosides. The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds).
Lily of the valley
Alternative names: May bells, Our Lady’s tears, Mary’s tears
Why: The bulbs, flowers and berries of the Lily of the valley are poisonous. The whole plant has toxic levels of cardiac glycosides, but the bulbs contain the highest levels. Nearly 40 different cardiac glycosides have been found within the Lily of the valley plant. They also contain saponins, which is also toxic to cats and dogs.
- Early indications of ingestion manifest themselves in the onset of gastrointestinal tract symptoms, such as diarrhoea, vomiting and excess salivation.
- More severe signs subsequently follow including acute heart and respiratory distress, disturbances in cardiac rhythm and heart failure.
- low blood pressure
Why: All onions, raw or cooked are dangerous. They contain thiosulphate which is toxic to cats and dogs. The ingestion of onions causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body to burst.
Rubber euphorbia (Poinsettias)
Why: Poinsettias, of which there are many varieties, contain a milky latex in the stem that is severely irritating to the skin, mucous membranes and gastrointestinal tract. The toxic principles in the latex of euphorbias are diterpenoid esters. These plants are sometimes regarded more of an irritant rather than toxic, however, poisoning by poinsettias is more frequently encountered in cats.
Dianthus caryophyllus (Carnations)
Alternative names: Carnation, Clove Pink, Pinks, Wild Carnation, Sweet William
Why: Particularly in cats when their skin comes into contact with the flower.
Grasses such as Spear grass, Rooigras (Themeda triandra), Assegaaigras and Bur Bristle grass (Setaria verticillata) have seeds that can penetrate the animals skin. This is most common between the toes of the animal but the seeds can also penetrate the skin, nose, eyes, eyelids, ears, gums or soft palate. Once the seed has penetrated the skin, they are able to migrate far inside the body.
- Symptoms associated with grass seeds and awns are determined by the shape of the seed and are specific to where it has lodged itself on the pet:
- Eyes may become inflamed and red.
- Sneezing or nasal discharge.
- Scratching the ear or shaking of the head.
- Chewing on an agitated area of skin may result in abscesses developing.
What to do if your Pet is Poisoned?
- Have your veterinarian’s contact details along with an ER vet and Pet Poison Helpline pre-saved on your phone so it’s always available in case of an emergency.
- As soon as you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, remove them from the area where the suspected intoxication occurred.
- Remove any residual poisonous substances from other pets or your children’s reach.
- Call your veterinarian or the national 24-hour Poisons Information Helpline on 086 155 5777.
- Ensure your pet is breathing and acting normally.
- Keep a sample of the toxic material and any other information that may be useful to the vet or the Pet Poison Helpline expert.
- Do not give your pet any form of prescription or over-the-counter medication to try remedy the situation without your vet’s consent.
- Do not feed your pet milk, oil, salt or any other home remedies.
- Never induce vomiting without first consulting your veterinarian.
Keep in mind that there is a narrow window period when professionals can induce vomiting or pump the stomach of toxins to save your pet. Your reaction time may make the ultimate difference in saving your loved one’s life, so act immediately.
The severity of the associated symptoms fully depends on the quantity of toxin that has been ingested and how promptly they are treated thereafter. Plant poisoning in our pet pals is uncommon, but there have been reported cases of related fatalities. By being aware of the types of plants you have in your garden, you can prevent an unnecessary incident or tragedy from happening.
Additional toxic plants to keep your pet away from:
- Baby’s breath
- Ivy including the following: California, Branching, Glacier, Needlepoint, Sweetheart and English.
- Morning glory
Avoid Other Forms of Pet Poisoning @ Home:
- Store all household cleaning material, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, paint-related items, chemicals and vehicle-related products in secured cabinets out of your pet’s reach.
- Even small doses of medication such as antidepressants, vitamins, pain killers, cold medicines and diet pills can be deadly to cats and dogs so keep them out of reach from your pets.
- Only use pest baits or traps (for rats, mice, snails or cockroaches) in areas that are inaccessible to pets.
- Only administer prescribed medication from your vet to your dog or cat as many human medications can be fatal to animals.
- Everyday household items can cause serious harm to your pets, so keep the following inaccessible to them:
- Consult your vet before applying a flea prevention product to sick, old or pregnant dogs.
- Do not use products intended for dogs on cats, and vice versa.
- Restrict your pets from accessing areas that have undergone insecticidal fogging or house sprays as indicated on the instructions.
- Restrict your pets from gardens that have been treated with herbicides, fertilisers or insecticides until they have dried entirely.
- Consult with a product’s manufacturer if you are unsure how to use it safely in your house.
Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson
|Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.|
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.