Plants and pets don’t always get along

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Spending the summer in the garden is fun and enjoyable, but the
dark side is that the new flowers and plants can be perilous to
your pet.
Spending the summer in the garden is fun and enjoyable, but the dark side is that the new flowers and plants can be perilous to your pet.

According to Dr. Michael Knight of the National Animal Poison Control Center, most of the calls that come into the NAPCC concern ”small companion animals – dogs and cats, parrots, caged birds. And most pet owners have plants in the home,” perhaps because of a ”nurturing instinct.”

Most plants must be ingested to be toxic, and the reaction often depends on the amount of material consumed.

To make it more confusing, different parts of a plant can be the culprit.

Some plants, like the yew, have poisonous properties in all parts, while others may have only poisonous leaves, berries, fruits, or roots.

Many pets instinctively know when to stay away from poisonous plants, but behavior varies according to age and type of animal.

Dogs and cats approach eating differently, and puppies can be particularly susceptible to poisoning.

”Dogs that are teething will chew on anything they can get their mouths on, and the first year is the most dangerous time,” says Knight.

He adds that breeds like retrievers are especially at risk because they instinctively put things in their mouths.

Plants pose a problem to both kittens and adult cats, since felines tend to be lifetime nibblers. But cats, unlike dogs, like to smell things first, and ”are more discriminate about what they eat,” Knight says.

In summer, common plants such as hydrangea, clematis, and English ivy can be problematical.

The foxglove, used to make human heart medicines, is toxic when eaten by pets.

Seeds of many plants are also poisonous, including those of morning glories and castor beans. Just two to four castor bean seeds are enough to cause an animal’s death.

In spring, some popular outdoor plants to beware of include azaleas, rhododendrons, nandinas, hollies, and yews. Stargazer, Asian, and tiger lilies are just as dangerous to cats as Easter lilies.

Other spring blooms, including tulips, hyacinths, and alliums can also be harmful, and the bulb is the most toxic part of the plant.

According to Knight, ”a lot of times people will bring home a bouquet, maybe from a wedding or a funeral, and a lot of those bouquets will contain some plants that cause problems.”

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