Plants are alive, and just like everything else, they would like to keep it that way. Since they cannot run away from potential threats, plants sometimes come with a chemical deterrent (aka poison). While we are (hopefully) smart enough to not eat plants of unknown origin, our furrier friends tend to subscribe to the “eat first, ask questions later,” philosophy.
It should be noted that, just for caution’s sake, any consumption of wild plants by your cat or dog should be avoided, but since it can be hard to monitor their mouths at all times, here is a helpful list of plants that should be avoided due to their poisonous nature.
Foxtails are pretty grass seeds that form into clusters and blow in the breeze — but these common sights of summer and fall are actually incredibly dangerous to dogs. They feature spiky prongs and barbs that can dig into a pet’s paws, and the whole things are small enough that a dog could accidentally snort one up or get one in their ear. The spiky barbs are then pointed in only one direction, which causes the foxtail to move “forward,” or into your dog’s body. Learn how to spot a foxtail under the skin and how to avoid these plants altogether.
Despite popular opinion, it is not the poinsettia (which is mildly toxic to pets at most) that needs to be most guarded during the holiday season. A yuletide staple, mistletoe can cause more than some awkward exchanges in doorways. The berries, when eaten by a cat or dog, can cause an upset stomach, low blood sugar, abnormal heart rate, and possibly seizures. While not typically a lethal plant (although deaths have been reported), mistletoe can cause your pet some serious discomfort. Symptoms to be on the watch for include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and ataxia (which looks like your pet got into the eggnog). If your pet exhibits some of these symptoms, contact your vet.
Dieffenbachia (aka philodendron)
This common houseplant, poisonous to both dogs and cats, is a moderately serious affliction at worst. When ingested, the leaves of this plant release calcium oxalate, which can cause excessive drooling, vomiting, loss of appetite, and pain in the mouth. A telltale sign of a pet suffering from calcium oxalate poisoning is pawing at the mouth in an attempt to soothe their irritated oral cavity. They might also suffer from some swelling of the lips and tongue, obstructing the airway and making it difficult to breathe, but this is rarely life threatening.
This garden variety flower, while not life threatening, is poisonous to both cats and dogs and should be avoided. After consumption of any part of the plant the animal in question may start exhibiting signs of depression, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, and possible liver failure.
This gorgeous flower contains a poison that targets the heart of those that consume it, making it especially dangerous, and potentially lethal to cats, dogs, and humans alike. Ingestion of this plant can result in drooling, vomiting, dilated pupils, seizures, arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, and even death.
An evergreen shrub with beautiful, white flowers, the oleander contains poisons of the same classification as the foxglove, causing potentially lethal cardiac arrhythmia in both cats and dogs. Symptoms of oleander poisoning include drooling, vomiting, seizures, general malaise, and an unusual heart rate. If you believe your pet has consumed oleander, they should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.
Only dangerous to cats, the lily is often included in flower arrangements and, depending on the species, can cause acute kidney failure and be lethal when eaten. Tiger, day, Easter, Japanese Show, stargazer, red, wood, and other types of lilies are all potentially deadly, even in small doses. Symptoms of lily ingestion include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath, and dehydration. If you suspect that your cat has eaten any amount of lily, take them to the vet immediately.