A Vet’s Guide to Pet-Friendly Plants
Having pets requires a lot of sacrifice and commitment, but we find that our furry companions are always worth the time and effort. As many pet owners know, there are certain precautions you need to take with your home if you plan on leaving your pet at home alone or even in another room alone. Chewable cushions need to be hidden, glass has to be stored away, and any bite-sized object cannot be in reach. Recently, plants have become a popular, environmentally-friendly way to furnish your space, but certain plants can be toxic for pets. To avoid any accidents, check out our pet-friendly plant guide!
WORST PLANTS FOR PETS
Like humans, animals are naturally curious and oftentimes, they will consume things that they really shouldn’t. Certain types can be poisonous when eaten, so to keep this from happening, we encourage pet parents to research their plants before purchasing them. Here’s are a few of the most popular (and deadly) plants that pet owners should be aware of:
- Azaleas: While these flowers are beautiful, they are also extremely dangerous. The deciduous plant contains grayanotoxins which can disturb the skeletal and cardiac muscle. If ingested by dogs or cats, it can cause gastrointestinal pain, heart problems, neurological illness.
- Lilies: Even small ingestions of lilies can cause serious organ failure for cats. If you suspect your cat has consumed a lily, bring them to the veterinarian immediately.
- Lily of the Valley: This type of lily is less toxic than true lilies, but it is still extremely dangerous to cats and dogs.
- Cyclamen: Saponins are glycosides that can have life-threatening toxicity. The roots of cyclamen contain these irritating compounds and they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and heart problems if consumed by dogs and cats.
- Crocuses: These plants are highly toxic and they can cause serious organ and intestine failure. Keep species of this plant away from cats and dogs.
- Daffodils: These sunny flowers may brighten up your room, but they’re not so great for your pets. Daffodils contain a vomit-triggering compound called lycorine that can make your dogs and cats sick.
- Oleander: The seemingly fragile, inconspicuous flowers on oleanders can actually wreak havoc on your pet’s cardiac system. The plant is full of cardenolides that will interfere with the heart muscle’s electrolyte balance.
- Tulips: With these flowers, the toxins are concentrated in the bulbs. Dogs and cats who dare to dig up the bulbs as chew toys may experience increased heart rates, change in respiration, and trouble breathing.
- Hyacinths: Just like tulips, hyacinths have concentrated toxins in their bulbs. Keep them in high places to keep animals from digging them out.
- Hibiscus: Humans may be able to enjoy hibiscus tea, but animals don’t react well to these tropical blooms. The Rose of Sharon is one specifically harmful species that can cause dehydration and an upset stomach.
- Birds of Paradise: These avian lookalikes contain gastrointestinal irritants that shouldn’t be eaten by dogs, cats, or horses.
- Chrysanthemums: The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has reported chrysanthemums as the plants that most frequently poison pets, so consider giving away your multi-petaled flowers to a friend.
Shrubs & Succulents
- Dieffenbachia: This leafy shrub contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that can cause irritation in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract. It can result in drooling, vomiting, and stomachaches for both dogs and cats.
- Kalanchoe: Also known as Mother-of-Millions and the Chandelier plant, the Kalanchoe is a popular succulent that should kept out of reach from pets. It contains cardiac toxins that can harm dogs and cats if ingested.
- Aloe Vera: The gel of aloe vera is known to be incredibly soothing and beneficial, but it definitely shouldn’t be ingested by any means. Cats, dogs, and rabbits can result in stomach problems.
- Mistletoe: We love getting into the spirit of the holidays, but mistletoe should be kept at a safe distance from any inquisitive pets. The berries are full of unsavory lectins, alkaloids, and polysaccharides that can be fatal in large doses.
- English & Boston Ivy: It’s unlikely that you’ll have these sprawling plants in your house, but it’s growing on your walls or near your windows, it could cause a lot of trouble. The vines are toxic to dogs, cats, and humans alike.
- Morning Glory: Oddly enough, these lovely blossoms are actually vines, not flowers. Regardless, they have hallucinogenic and toxic seeds. Keep them away from dogs and cats to prevent a visit to the animal hospital.
- Wisterias: If you have outdoor pets, keep them away from wisterias. The soft, lavender blossoms are anything but gentle on those who consume them. The tree’s seeds are poisonous and they can cause nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and vomiting.
- Oak: It’s no secret that oak tree leaves and acorns can be toxic to animals because of their tannic acid. This acid can cause serious kidney damage and gastroenteritis if consumed.
- Sago Palm: In California, palm plants of all kinds are easier to breed. The Sago Palm, however, is extremely toxic to animals. If your pet ingests parts of the Sago Palm, they need to be seen by an emergency vet immediately or there may be devastating effects to their central nervous system.
- Elephant Ears: This is another tropical foliage plant with giant, shady leaves. Though these plants aren’t fatal, they can cause terrible indigestion if cats and dogs consume the leaves or stems.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it does cover most popular houseplants. If your shrubs aren’t on the list, check with your local veterinarian if you need to take any precautions with your plants.
If you just can’t part with your greenery, remember to keep your flowers and shrubs in a safe place where your pets won’t be tempted to nibble on them. As plants age, their leaves or petals can also wilt to the ground, becoming accessible to pets. Make sure to sweep these up before your pets can get to them.
BEST PLANTS FOR PETS
Now on to the good news! There are also plenty of plants that are also totally pet-friendly. These greens are a great way to get cleaner air and spruce up your home a little without the risk of poisoning your canine or feline friends. Here are our favorites:
- Fern: Specifically, Boston and Sword’s ferns are nontoxic and they’ll fit perfectly in the corner of a room. Other species may be highly toxic, so make sure you read the labels before you purchase them!
- Bamboo: To add some dimension to your room, add a few bamboo plants! They shouldn’t be toxic to dogs and cats.
- Spider plants: This popular houseplant makes a vibrant addition to any household and it’s nontoxic. However, that doesn’t mean your pet won’t try to play with the long, spindly leaves. Try hanging spider plants from high places to keep your animals from wrecking your plant.
- Echeveria: Not only is this succulent absolutely adorable, but it also requires little maintenance and it’s safe to keep around cats and dogs. The leaves rarely shed and it’s nontoxic.
- Haworthia: These spiky little plants are a relative of the aloe that are relatively easy to take care of.
- Areca palm: Add a tropical vibe to your home with the areca or butterfly palm. With good care, this plant can live up to 10 years without a problem.
- Orchids: For a beautiful, pet-friendly flower, pick up orchids. This fragrant plant can be a stunning centerpiece.
- Barberton Daisies: If you have a green thumb, the Barberton daisy is a challenge we recommend taking. Though it’s a sweet plant, it takes a lot of effort to grow and manage. On the bright side, the flower is safe for dogs and cats.
- Basil: Like most herbs, basil is safe for humans and most pets to consume. Plus, you can add it to your pizza once it’s fully grown!
- Peppermint: Keep your dog’s breath fresh with home-grown, nontoxic peppermint!
- Burro’s Tail: This unique succulent is named after a donkey’s tail because it looks just like a fluffy green tail! It’s a nice hanging plant to brighten up a room and it’s completely safe for pets.
There are plenty of other plants you can grow without worry, but make sure to check it out with a veterinarian or botanist first. While you can control your environment at home, we recommend training your pets not to chew on any types of plants at all. They could be easily be exposed to poisonous plants when they’re out and about, so the best way to avoid a pet emergency is by teaching them to avoid foreign plants altogether.
If your pet accidentally consumes a toxic plant, call a veterinarian as soon as possible. At Brookhurst Animal Medical Center, our Anaheim veterinarian is trained to quickly diagnose and treat the problem, so it doesn’t cause further damage. Give us a call if you have questions or need to book an appointment with the vet at Brookhurst Animal today!