It’s always nice to have flowers or a houseplant, but if you’re a pet owner, bringing plants into your home can pose deadly danger to your beloved pets.
That is why it is essential to know the difference between a highly toxic plant or flower and one that is safe for your pets. In general, cats are more at risk of needing to be rushed to the ER after eating a plant they shouldn’t have than dogs.
“One of the reasons cats are more at risk is because they are true carnivores. They have fewer enzymes to break down toxins in their livers, compared to dogs that are omnivores,” said veterinarian Tina Wismer, senior director of the Animal Poison Control Center at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “So [dogs] they have a wider variety of enzymes in their livers to break down toxins.”
All pet owners should be careful about what their pet might try to eat when you’re not looking. Despite your best efforts to keep plants and pets separate, cats and dogs can become curious about the plant on the mantle and mistake it for a toy or snack (they are little agents of chaos, after all).
Here are some of the most toxic houseplants and flowers to be aware of if you have a cat or dog:
Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist with the Pet Poison Helpline, said most cat owners who end up calling the helpline do so because of the lilies. “Lilies by far are our most common call,” she said.
But not all lilies have the same effects on pets. Although veterinarians explained that chewing lilies can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain in dogs, certain types are particularly life-threatening for cats.
Cat owners want to be careful with lilies in the Lily Y Hemerocallis genus, which can cause acute renal failure, as well as lilies in the Convallaria genus, such as lily of the valley, which can cause acute intoxication and irregular heartbeat. These plant groups include popular seasonal flowers, such as:
- easter lily
- japanese lily
- Oriental lily hybrids
- stargazer lily
- white house lily
- tiger lily
- Lily of the valley
For these highly toxic lilies, Wismer said it doesn’t take more than a lick of pollen to give cats trouble. “It requires the ingestion of the leaves or the petals, or unfortunately also the pollen,” Wismer said. “If you have a cat, please, no lilies in the house.”
If your cat has been left unattended in a room with one of these lilies, Wismer suggests taking it to the emergency room as soon as possible, just in case.
“For lilies, I probably would,” he said. “What we know with cats is that if we start treating them in the first 18 hours after they’ve been exposed, we have a good prognosis, but after that the prognosis really gets worse.”
2. Castor plant
This tropical decorative plant, which grows in backyards across the US, is highly toxic to dogs and cats if they ingest the bean because it can cause liver and kidney failure and death.
“For the castor, it’s not so much the flower that it bears as it is the seed that it produces,” Wismer said.
Signs of castor poisoning can include “loss of appetite, excessive thirst, weakness, cramps, tremors, sweating, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing, progressive central nervous system depression, and fever,” according to the ASPCA website.
Eating any part of this flowering plant is toxic and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, arrhythmia, and even death in both cats and dogs.
“MEIt’s the whole plant: the flowers, the leaves, the stem,” Wismer said.
For dogs, it can even cause the heart to stop, Wismer said.
This common garden plant contains chemicals that affect the hearts of dogs and cats and can cause heart failure if ingested.
Like oleander, Wismer said, ingesting the flower can cause your hearts to beat erratically.
5-7. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths
With these popular spring flowers, it’s the bulb in the ground that you need to worry about as a pet owner.
“We get a lot of calls when your dogs and cats eat tulips, daffodils or hyacinths, but as long as they don’t eat the bulb, all you’ll see is a mild upset stomach,” Wismer said. “But the part that is below ground, the bulb, is highly toxic.”
As the Pet Poison Helpline website states, “Tulip and daffodil bulbs can cause changes in heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure if ingested.”
8. Sago Palm
One bite of the highly toxic, feather-like leaves of the sago palm can be life-threatening to dogs and cats, though Schmid noted that, in his experience, dogs are more likely to try to eat it.
“They have a higher chance of exposure,” he said. “Cats tend to be more selective in what they choose to eat. The dogs don’t really care; they are more curious”.
Liver failure and significant stomach upset are possible, Shmid added. “May be fatal if swallowed. To me, that one can be overlooked because it’s a houseplant, so people think it’s this little ornamental plant” that poses little danger.
Azaleas and other Rhododendron species contain toxins that can be dangerous if eaten in excess.
“They also have cardiac toxins that can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate and rhythm,” Schmid said.
As the Pet Poison Helpline website says, “Most ingestions by pets will only result in an upset stomach, however, more serious signs can occur, including heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, as well as neurological changes.” , with large ingestions”.
Unfortunately, pets don’t have to eat a lot of azaleas before it becomes a problem. “Ingestion of 0.2% of an animal’s body weight can result in poisoning,” states the Pet Helpline. “The overall prognosis is fair with treatment.”
10. Clover Plants
Schmid said that, for the most part, many common houseplants, such as pothos, probably only upset the stomachs of the cats and dogs that eat them.
But the plants in the oxalis species, such as the clover plant, also known as the lucky plant, sorrel or Oxalis triangularisthey are an exception and are highly toxic to pets.
“Those can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats,” he said. “That would be one that maybe people don’t pay much attention to or don’t think much of… Usually if we get a call, it’s been a houseplant.”
11. Kalanchoe flowers
Kalanchoe is a common indoor or outdoor plant that has heart toxins, which can damage your cat or dog’s heart.
“Most of the time with that one too, the upset stomach is the first thing you see,” Schmid said. “But if they ingest a lot of leaves or a lot of flower globes, then it’s possible that they could have changes in their rhythm and heart rate.”
Of course, these are just a few of the many plants and flowers that are dangerous to dogs and cats, and the list includes trendy houseplants like alocasias, monsteras, jade, mistletoe, schefflera, and eucalyptus. When in doubt, look up the toxicity of the plant your pet nibbled on and call your vet, Wismer said.
“[Your vet] we can decide if this is something we can monitor at home or if they need to come in right away,” he said. “An important thing: If you’re sending someone flowers, you can order a pet-safe bouquet.”