Have you ever wondered if the plants in your garden might hurt or even kill your beloved four-legged friends?
Thinking that I would get a head start on enjoying one of my favourite annuals, a few months back I planted Morning Glory seeds in an indoor planter. Now, I am aware that the seeds are toxic to animals and so, kept the germinating seeds behind closed doors, away from my pets. Once the seedlings had sprouted their second leaves, I placed them in a sunny window in the living room.
Within two days, our cat named Maxx, a male cat with an extremely loud voice, began producing a pitiful, almost kitten-like cry. This alarming change to his voice sent us on an emergency trip to the vets. The vet diagnosed Maxx with a mild case of poisoning. I had suspected that our little plant-lover may have chomped on a few Morning Glory leaves, which I mentioned to the vet, who then concluded this toxic plant was the culprit for Maxx’s voice loss.
Toxins from the plant acted similar to a nerve agent, affecting the brain’s motor skills connected to voice control in the vocal chords, hence the drastic voice change. Obviously, the Morning Glory plants were immediately put out of reach and, after two weeks of vocalizing in mini-meows, Maxx fully recovered.
I wanted to make sure this never happened again and so, took to researching which other common garden plants are toxic to pets. The twenty most commonly sold (in Alberta) annual and perennial plants, have varying levels of toxicity, and are toxic to both cats and dogs;
Arum, Azalea, Baby Breath, Begonia, Clematis, Coleus, Dahlia, Daisy, Dracaena, Geranium, Hosta, Hydrangea, Ivy, Lobelia, Nasturtium, Primrose, Rhododendron, Sweet Pea, Sweet William and, Yarrow.
It is also important to note that all common garden bulbs such as Daffodils, Tulips and Tiger Lily, to name a few, are poisonous in their bulb state. Sap from fruit trees can be harmful to pets if ingested. Although the fruit from tomato plants are not harmful to animals, the actual tomato plant stems and leaves if eaten, can result in skin irritations in pets.
Some plants, such as Fox tails, produce tiny spur-like seeds which can quite easily attach to fur, and have been recorded as the cause of ear and eye infections in pets, due to the seeds becoming lodged in the ear canal or tear ducts. Pet-proofing the compost bin is especially important as there have been fatal cases of animal poisinoning due to ingesting tossed out rhubarb leaves and weeds.
If your pet shows symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, high heart rate, wheezing, intense scratching or skin biting or, loss of appetite, immediately take them to the vetinarian. The sooner your pet receives medical treatment, the less stress it is on the animal’s physical and mental health, and less stress on your wallet too. If you know what toxin your fur-baby ingested, put a piece of it in a plastic bag and take it to the vets with you, it will assist in a faster diagnosis.
We all want our pets to safely enjoy the warm Summer months. Being mindful of what and where toxic plants are in your garden and taking steps to prevent accidental poisoning can be as simple as fencing off your garden beds or just having an enclosed area where your pet can safely play, investigate and laze around.
For further information about poisoning prevention, browse the 24/7 Animal Poison Control Centre website petpoisonhelpline.com or, for emergency assistance call 1-800-213-6680 to talk with an on-call veterinarian, (One time service charge).
This article was written by Mandy Smallwood.