There are many common plants that may be growing in and around your home that could be extremely toxic for our fury friends, including cats, dogs, horses and humans for that matter. Some animals may never go near these plants as they seem to instinctively know that danger looms, but some species have toxic seeds, flowers and foliage which if ingested could be fatal indeed? Child care centres now have to have their gardens assessed to be compliant to make sure that no toxic plants are located on their grounds to ensure the safety of our children. When it comes to the home though, we tend to be more relaxed, especially with properties that may have just changed hands with established gardens already in place. I often find plants growing near the entrance of buildings which could be extremely toxic if ingested by pets or children. I personally would rather hug a tree any-day, than have to point the finger and tag it for removal, but I am going to list and describe some common plants over the next few articles that are toxic if ingested by pets. Awareness is the key, and once you can identify most of your plants around your home, you will be armed to make informed decisions accordingly. So, stay tuned indeed.
Most Australian veterinarians that have a strong online presence may have a list of the most common toxic plants available for download online, but if you are after an informative, hard copy reference manual with detailed pictures of these toxic plants in Australian gardens which are poisonous to our fury friends, then Nicole O’Kane’s publication titled Poisonous2Pets - is just the ticket. You can purchase this publication directly from her web site: www.posionous2pets.com.au. for $39.95. This publication is also available online at the CSIRO Book shop too. Could be a great Christmas present this year? Hint- Hint!
Some plants may actually be more toxic to dogs than cats and vice versa, much in the same way that human medications and certain foods or herbs may also be toxic to animals too. Garlic, onions and shallots which are members of the Allium family, can be poisonous to cats and dogs upon ingestion, but the level of toxicity can vary due to each animal’s unique individual metabolism. But when it comes to living with kittens and puppies which can wreak havoc- “with the force of a miniature tornado”- as they clamber over your potted house plants or dig up your favourite bulbs in the garden in 5 seconds flat; then knowledge is power indeed, if you ever need to rescue them!
Some common toxic plants for pets: If you suspect your pet has eaten these plants then seek veterinary attention immediately. Stay tuned for next issue also, for more examples of toxic plants!
Sago palm- Cycas revoluta-
All parts of Cycas revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious side effects. Symptoms: Include vomiting, diarrhoea, black or bloody stools, seizures, liver failure or death. Female plants have a large round cabbage shaped flower which produces the toxic red flattened seeds on maturity. See Image top right: The ripe female flower with red flattened seeds.
Lilies, Lilium including Asiatic and Hemerocallis. Entire plant is toxic. Cats are exceptionally susceptible to toxicity. Symptoms: Include vomiting, depression- (lack of interest in food) and kidney failure. As little as (2) petals can cause toxicity and even the ‘vase water’- can be toxic if ingested. Most flower arrangements contain Lily flowers and most gardens have them too!
Cyclamen. All parts of these plants are toxic; however, the highest concentration of the toxin is in the tuber and roots. Symptoms: Include intense vomiting, drooling and diarrhoea. Causes heart rhythm abnormalities and seizures. Plants go into dormancy and the rhizome can be dug up by pets playing in the garden and chewed causing acute poisoning.
Autumn Crocus: Colchicum autumnale Toxin: Colchicine and other alkaloids. All parts of the autumn crocus are toxic to pets. Symptoms: Include drooling, vomiting (may contain blood), diarrhoea, shock and multi-organ damage. These can grow from lawns also!
Brunfelsia sp.- Beautiful plant- but all parts of the plant are poisonous, dogs are drawn to the seed pods which are toxic. Symptoms: Salivation, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle tremors and seizures which can last several days. Best to remove berries before seeds are produced. Take care when pruning plants. Thoroughly remove all clippings, seeds and berries from the garden.