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Woof Wednesday: Pets & Poison Plants!

magic w red roses

Roses are edible--but not all plants are safe!

Today I’ll be on KXII-TV’s “Pet Talk” discussing holiday safety for pets and that includes pets and poison plants. The video (below) is from last year but today’s segment will address many of the same issues. This blog has already covered a number of tips about protecting the Christmas tree from both your dogs and the kitty-cats. But what are some other plant poisons that happen around the holiday?


We know today that poinsettia isn’t the demon-child out to get your pets, but it can cause some irritation. And there are some very dangerous plants out there.

The deadliest plants must be chewed or swallowed for the poison to work. Dogs are affected most often, particularly breeds that eat anything that doesn’t move faster than they do. Some cats enjoy grazing opportunities and nibble leaves, but all cats can be affected after clawing the plant, when they later lick their paws clean. Paws, mouths, and sometimes ears and eyes also are vulnerable to spiky parts of plants. Swallowed Christmas tree needles, for example, do damage to the tender insides of the pet, too.


Azalea, for example, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma and death. Eating or chewing caladium, dieffenbachia or philodendron makes the tongue and throat swell up so breathing is difficult. Mother-in-law’s tongue (snake plant) causes everything from mouth irritation to collapse. Crown of thorns and English ivy will prompt thirst, vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain, and death in one to two days. Holly also causes stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, while lily poisoning prompts kidney failure (excess urination and drinking). Mistletoe can be deadly—only one or two berries can kill your pet, and causes vomiting, diarrhea, slowed breathing and heart rate.


Different poisons require very specific first aid. Usually that will be either 1) induce vomiting, or 2) give milk or water to wash out the mouth and dilute the poison. Make the pet vomit with these tips. But making the pet vomit the wrong poisonous plant,  could make a serious situation even more deadly, so you MUST know what to do for each type of plant.

You’ll also need to be ready to give pet CPR and rescue breathing if necessary. When there’s a question about what first-aid to offer, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center for accurate advice.

Detailed advice for dealing with the most common plant poisoning is available in The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. The ASPCA Animal Poison-Control Center provides a database of common pet poisons, and is available for telephone consultations (1-888-426-4435) in case of poisoning emergency. The fee can be charged to your credit card. Preventing plant poisoning is ideal. Choose only pet-friendly safe varieties for your garden and home.

What type of plants do you have in your house? How do you keep the fur-kids away? Have you ever had a pet poisoned by plants? What did you do? I hope these tips help prevent any future mishaps!

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About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

7 responses »

  1. We have found that the feral (and formerly feral) cats that frequent our azalea-filled neighborhood do not eat the azaleas or other toxic plants. (This is also true of the formerly feral ones we have brought indoors where we have a lot of mother-in-law tongues.) Apparently their mothers taught them not to do so.

    I was horrified when one neighbor put out the type of spiky plant that somehow had just said was poisonous to cats but there was nothing I could do about it. Fortunately, not one cat seen in the neighborhood from ferals to rambling domesticated ones has shown any interest, thank goodness.

    Your reminders are good for even those of us surrounded by cats who know better as we forget sometimes that not all cats have the “street smarts” of this particular family of ferals. We realize that if future cats in our lives don’t have the background raising that ours have gotten the outcomes could be sad & bad.

    One tip though: In the one exception where a cat who had lost its mother early was exhibiting interest in the azaleas my husband hissed at him like a mother cat might do and he never showed an interest again. He “got” that it was off limits.

    So, again, thanks for the good reminders!!!!!

  2. Wow… I had no idea mistletoe was so toxic to dogs. Thanks, Amy! This is a keeper-post for sure.

    On another topic, what’s your take on Ascriptin (aspirin coated in Maalox) for arthritic dogs? When my bull dog has a flareup, Rimadyl seems to help. My neighbor suggested Aspcriptin daily as a preventative measure… If you have the time and willingness, love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

    • Hi August,

      Rimadyl is designed specifically for dogs so if that works, I’d stick with that. The vet would be monitoring liver/etc with that anyway. It comes in doses more easily adjusted to dogs, too.

      Ascriptin is an okay option and less problematic than the straight aspirin because it’s coated. And it’s probably less expensive. Might be fine for short-lived discomfort. But for ongoing pain like arthritis, the Rimadyl or other vet-prescribed choice probably will be more effective.

      Hope that helps.

  3. Pingback: Blog Treasures 12-10 « Gene Lempp's Blog

  4. Hello Amyshojai,
    Thanks for the info, The a few most notable harmful plants that you are probable to experience on a camping journey are poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac. All of these have the prospective to induce an itchy and distressing rash. Remaining able to establish poisonous crops could be a invaluable ability.

    • Thanks for visiting the blog. Yes, those are harmful for PEOPLE, although pets almost never have skin reactions to poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. Pets can brush against these plants, though, and then transmit the oil from their fur to an owner during petting. So during camping times this is good info to consider.


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