But the truth is that when we have animals in our homes, we have the responsibility to keep things that can make them sick out of the way – they’re not smart enough to do that for themselves.
Accidents will happen, but you can avoid remorse by knowing the risks of common plants in advance.
You will ALWAYS find people who say their pets ate something that was supposed to be toxic and are fine – and while that may be true (perhaps they misidentified a plant or their animal is very large and only had a mild stomach ache) – it’s often better to be safe than sorry.
Frankly, eating any plant can cause GI upset or vomiting in an animal, but some are far worse than others.
Each slide contains a link to more research where you can read for yourself about the dangers of a plant and decide what’s right for your household.
(And remember, always look for the scientific name when purchasing a new plant and research it online that way – some members of the same plant family can have different toxicity levels.)
1. Golden pothos
If your pet chews on the plant, you might notice irritation of the mouth, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing, which can be fatal if they eat a lot or are already in poor health.
This plant can be mildly toxic to humans as well – but we’re generally smart enough not to eat it (but keep those climbing vines out of the reach of little ones!).
2. Silver jade, Chinese jade, Silver Dollar plant
It can, however, cause nausea and retching in both cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA, but it’s rarely fatal in healthy animals.
The flowers are so toxic that even sniffing the pollen can cause a reaction in felines.
There are many types of lilies, however, and it can be hard to keep track of which ones can cause renal failure, so it might be better to keep the whole lily family out of the house.
4. Snake plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
When eaten, these are likely to cause gastrointestinal distress and lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
5. Cutleaf Philodendron
If ingested in large quantities, your pet is in for an uncomfortable time, potentially suffering from intense burning of the mouth, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
This is one to keep up high and out of reach or remove from your home if your pet really likes to chow down on the greens.
Signs of tulip poisoning include excessive drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, labored breathing, seizures, and appetite loss, but it’s the bulb that’s the most dangerous.
It’s worth putting some netting over the bulb or put it out of the reach of animals that like to chew your colorful flowers if you plan to grow them indoors.
However, pets have to ingest a pretty good amount of the white “latex” portion of the plant to feel the pain and many of those symptoms will pass.
Still, if you have a baby, elderly, or otherwise sick animal, it’s good to keep them out of reach since diarrhea can cause dehydration that can be life-threatening.
8. Autumn crocus, Meadow saffron
Colchicum autumnale is highly toxic to both cats and dogs so you’ll want to keep those grow-your-own kits out of the house.
According to the ASPCA, ingestion can cause bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage, and bone marrow suppression. Pets have died from swallowing the autumn crocus.
Just keep an eye on flower-loving pets around carnations unless you like cleaning up a mess.
10. Azalea, Rhododendron
It’s best to keep these plants outdoors and keep curious dogs from getting a mouthful, though they tend not to want to eat them anyway.
11. Cardboard palm
There are multiple toxins in the plant, including cycasin, which can cause vomiting, bruising, liver failure, and even death.
Yew (Taxus spp.) is one of them, though it’s rarely grown indoors.
13. Castor bean plant
The seeds contain a substance called ricin which can cause burning of mouth and throat, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, convulsions, and death.
Early signs of exposure include loss of appetite, excessive thirst, weakness, trembling, sweating, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing, and fever within 12-48 hours after ingestion.
Some people like to propagate baby plants indoors, but it’s something to avoid if you have pets.
14. Heavenly bamboo
While it’s rare for these to be houseplants, they are occasionally used to decorate for the holidays.
If you have a cat or dog, you might want to leave the Digitalis purpurea outdoors since they contain cardiac glycosides that can cause cardiac arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure, or even death.
Keep pets away and keep cuttings outside or out of reach.
17. English ivy
It’s best to use this in a hanging basket and make sure it doesn’t grow long enough for pets to reach.
But eating the raw leaves (especially if you spray them down with something) can cause stomach upset and vomiting in any pet.
Now, eating the processed leaves (designed for smoking) CAN poison a cat or dog and cause depression, vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness, apathy or excitation, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizure, and even coma.
It’s not funny to try to get your pet high – it’s dangerous and cases of poisoning have gone up over 400% now that it’s become legal in many states and countries.
Click here for more info on your pet injesting pot in its recreational forms.
There are many types of mistletoe, including Phoradendron serotinum (American mistletoe) and Viscum album (European mistletoe). The American mistletoe is less toxic but the berries of these plants can cause gastrointestinal irritation (such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain) in cats and dogs.
If they ingest a lot (say, if you have a big plant growing), it can cause an abnormal heart rate, collapse, low blood pressure, and seizures.
It’s actually that essential oil inside (eucalyptol) that we humans value so much that causes problems for pets.
Your cat or dog simply can’t digest it so it accumulates in their bodies and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, weakness. If larger quantities build up (say, if you don’t notice they’re eating it and it keeps happening), it can be fatal.
21. Black walnut
While the specific toxin hasn’t been identified, we do know that moisture on the ground can cause them to become moldy and eating them can cause tremors and seizures.
22. Indian borage
If cats ingest this low-growing foliage, it may result in vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody urine.
It’s even worse for dogs – especially those with weak immune systems – and causes irritation of the mouth and intestines, vomiting, weakness, and muscle tremors.
Keep these beauties out of reach.
Certain breeds (especially of dog) are more sensitive but even if your pet has eaten some garlic (any part of the plant) before and been fine, that shouldn’t be an indication that they can do it again.
25. Bird of Paradise
Most commonly bought as gifts, both of these plants can cause vomiting in pets. Poinciana gilliesii leaves also contain hydrocyanic acid which can cause oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of coordination.
26. Crab apples
Those contain cyanogenic glycosides (capable of generating cyanide) which can cause difficulty breathing, panting, and shock in cats and dogs.
This can cause oral irritation such as intense burning of the mouth and tongue, excessive drooling, vomiting, and even difficulty swallowing.
29. Sweet pea
It’s mostly a problem if your pet grazes on them long term, but the aminoproprionitrite they contain can eventually cause neurological and musculoskeletal problems including weakness, lethargy, tremors, and seizures.
30. Flamingo flower
Ingestion is especially bad for dogs, though once they nibble they’re likely to be turned off by the taste. However, if they keep chewing, you’ll need to get them to a vet immediately before airway obstruction or the inability to swallow occur.
Hyacinthus orientalis can cause intense vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), depression, and tremors.
If your pet digs up a bulb and tries to eat it, the toxic calcium oxalate crystals will likely pierce the skin and deter the animal. But if swallowed, asphyxiation or severe intestinal damage can occur.
32. Florida beauty
Both cats and dogs can experience abdominal pain, vomiting, depression, increased heart rate, loss of coordination, and weakness if they ingest the leaves. However, it’s worse for cats which also may experience drooling, loss of coordination, dilated pupils, and GI upset.
This plant can be kept in the home as long as your pet can behave around it. The toxic effects are generally mild and no deaths have been reported.
Helleborus niger contains a number of toxins that can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea as well as depression.
34. Lily of the Valley
35. Tomato plant
Luckily, in small doses, your pet will likely be fine. Just don’t let them chow down.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ban it from your house. Just keep animals from chronically eating it.
37. Grass palm
If they do ingest it, it can cause vomiting (occasionally bloody), depression, and anorexia in both cats and dogs.
Hemerocallis spp. can cause vomiting, lethargy, kidney failure, and even death in your formerly feisty feline.
If you suspect your cat has swallowed part of a lily, get them to a vet immediately.
Some dogs appear to be extra-sensitive to the herb, so if you notice any changes in behavior or appetite after ingestion, speak to your vet.