Toxic Plants for Pets

Our pets love to chew, bite, gnaw, lick, munch.. everything! So it is no surprise that intestinal surgery is one of our most commonly performed procedures. Even a beautiful bouquet of flowers or common household pot plants can pose hidden hazards, with pet owners often none the wiser until disaster strikes.

March is Pet Poison Prevention Month which is a great reminder to double check the home for any possible toxins – natural or otherwise. As always, prevention is better than a cure! Below are some of the most common poisonous plants to watch out for.

Moses in the Basket: aka Moses in the Cradle/Stripe Me Pink (Rhoeo spathacea)

Did you know that these common boat lilies can cause severe skin allergies in our pets? Contact with these garden plants against the skin triggers redness, itchiness and irritation. Avoid access to these plants to prevent reactions.

Lily’s are a commonly known poison for cats but certain varieties are also very toxic to dogs. As even the tiniest amount can cause poisoning or death it would be advisable to avoid having any plant from the Lily family altogether.

Lily Intoxication:

  • All parts of the plant are toxic
  • Ingestion of multiple flowers causes death in a few hours
  • Untreated lily intoxication causes acute renal failure in 12-36 hours and death in 3-5 days after exposure
  • Renal injury after pollen exposure is possible but rare
  • Dogs only develop mild gastrointestinal signs after ingestion
  • Signs – vomiting, lethargy, anorexia within hours – progressing to ataxia, depression, weakness, excessive drinking and urination, seizures          
  • Results are best where treatment is prompt, beginning before renal impairment
  • Early intervention is critical to the success of treatment
    • 90% survive with intervention after ingestion
    • 5% develop long term renal damage after
    • But mortality can be up to 100%
    • Requires supportive care and fluid therapy

Cycad/Sago Palm Intoxication:

Did you know that these common tropical garden plants can cause severe illness and DEATH? Ingestion of any portion of the Cycad results in vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy followed by acute liver failure. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is very difficult to treat and has a very poor prognosis. Seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.

  • All parts of the plant are toxic
  • Ingestion of just 1 seed can result in death
  • Signs occurring within a few hours of ingestion to up to 3 days later
  • Vomiting 90% of cases, diarrhoea, lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, tremors, ataxia, weakness, seizures, dull
  • Resulting in liver failure which is often irreversible
  • Mortality can be 50-100%
  • Requires intensive care

Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow/Kiss Me Quick (Brunfelsia spp.)

This bright flowering shrub may look pretty but don’t be fooled. All parts of this nightshade are poisonous to canines and humans.

  • Vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle tremors, anxious, seizures
  • Within a few hours of ingestion
  • Requires supportive care, antiseizure medication and IV fluids

Compost and Mouldy Food Ingestion:

Fungal neurotoxins found on old food, rubbish or compost can be particularly poisonous.

  • The clinical signs are induced by the spores present in the mould and compost
  • Results in tremors and vomiting within a few hours of ingestions
  • Potential to result in liver failure (although rare) due to the spores present
  • Requires supportive care, anti tremor medication and fluid therapy

If you suspect that your pet has ingested toxic plants and is showing signs of poisoning, please visit your local veterinary clinic or after hours Animal Emergency Hospital immediately. Time is key where poison is concerned so be prepared and keep these emergency details handy.

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