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Common Houseplants That Can Harm Your Animals

Posted by at 5:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)


pointsettaDepending on your climate (and yard space), you may not be able to create an outdoor garden. The good news is that many plants can live either inside or outside. When you move your garden indoors, it is even more critical to make sure that all your plants are animal-friendly and not poisonous.

Below are 20 of the most common indoor plants that could harm your animals. Many of these plants are given as gifts during the holidays, so please pay close attention to any you might receive before exposing your animals to them.

My motto is always, “When in doubt, leave it out,” so if you are even questioning the safety of a plant selection, it’s best not to bring it into your house. If your dog or cat has nibbled on a plant and you have any questions or concerns, you need to contact your animal’s veterinarian or the Pet Poison Hotline at 1-800-213-6680.

Aloe Vera: Although it’s medicinal for humans, don’t let companion animals eat it. It can cause gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea.

amaryllisAmaryllis: This plant can be very enticing to dogs and cats, and it is frequently given as a gift during the holidays. It can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, depression, and tremors.

Azalea, Rhododendron (Ericaceous): Also frequently given as a gift, these beautiful plants, if ingested, can cause cardiovascular collapse, which can be fatal. They contain acetylandromedol, which can lead to excessive salivation, weakness, depression, drooling, and vomiting. Comas, heart failure, and weakness can also result.

Caladium: Caladium is a beautiful foliage plant that comes in a variety of colors. However, it can create upset stomach, oral irritation, asphyxiation, tremors, seizures, loss of balance, and death.

Calla Lilly: This is another favorite during Easter, but it’s very deadly. Symptoms include upset stomach, oral irritation, asphyxiation, tremors, seizures, loss of balance, and death.

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis):Keep this enticing 3-inch-high plant out of reach! If ingested, animals can suffer from drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and excessive thirst. Severe poisoning can result in tremors, seizures, comas, and death.

Chrysanthemum, commonly known as mums (Compositae): The flowers are toxic on mums. If ingested, they can produce drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and loss of coordination. Mums can also cause dermatitis.

Cyclamen (Cyclamine): If ingested, cyclamen can produce intense vomiting, which can be fatal. It can also cause skin irritation.

English Ivy (Hedera helix): Ivy is very popular during the holidays; many people use it to create indoor Christmas wreaths. If consumed, it can produce serious gastrointestinal problems, which can include vomiting, pain, diarrhea, and excessive salivation.

Kalanchoe (succulent flowering plants): If ingested, the toxins affect the heart and alter its rhythm and rate; it can also cause stomach irritability.

Lilies (Lilium), all types, including Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum), rubrum lily (Lilium speciosum), Japanese show lily (Lilium lancifolium), and some species of the day lily (Hemerocallis species): All parts of lilies are toxic to cats. If eaten, they will cause kidney failure. The first signs of exposure are vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Many cat guardians do not see these signs as unusual and do not seek immediate attention. Kidney failure will develop 24 to 72 hours after ingestion. Kidney failure symptoms include excessive thirst, increased urination, lethargy, vomiting, lack of appetite, and dehydration.

Mistletoe (Phoradendron species): If your animal consumes even one or two berries, it can be fatal. Be safe and keep it out of reach. Better yet, don’t bring it into your home at all. Artificial mistletoe is a beautiful substitute.

peace-lilyPeace Lily (aka Mauna Loa Peace Lily): If ingested by your animal companions, peace lilies can cause oral irritation, which includes drooling, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, burning, and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue.

Philodendron: Philodendrons are very popular plants because they are so easy to grow. Symptoms include a swollen mouth, a painful tongue, and sore lips.

Poinsettias: These plants are the most popular during Christmas. They are available in pink, white, or red. Although most people think they are the most toxic indoor plants, it would actually require ingestion of a large amount to see clinical signs in your dog or cat. However, do not take chances; keep them out of reach. Signs could include vomiting, anorexia, and depression. Poinsettias also contain milky sap that can cause skin irritation.

Pothos (Araceae family): Pothos is a very popular indoor plant. If consumed, it can cause swelling of oral tissues, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach irritation.

Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta): Although all parts of the sago palm are toxic, the seeds contain the largest amount of poison. They can cause seizures, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and liver failure.

sheffalara-umbrella-plantSchefflera, commonly known as Umbrella Plant: Schefflera can cause vomiting, kidney problems, tremors, and heart and respiratory problems. Scheffleras can also cause oral irritation, such as difficulty swallowing, drooling, and burning of the mouth, lips, and tongue.

Tulip/Jonquil/Narcissus Bulbs: Many people force paper white bulbs to bloom during the holidays by planting them indoors. They can cause serious stomach problems, hyperactivity, tremors, depression, irregular heartbeat, weakness, loss of appetite, and cardiac abnormalities.

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    Dawn says...

    December 26th, 2008, 2:23 pm

    Never heard of Aloe being anything but healthy for pets until now, so I’m sending out some feelers on that to 2 Veterniary Friends of mine. Now that we see the bad, I wonder what the good are:-)

    Gary says...

    December 26th, 2008, 2:50 pm

    Thank You for this informative Post…
    I did not know some of the plants you covered are toxic, however I try to teach my Animal Companions not to eat any houseplants (other than their own grass/herb garden) or nibble at non-food objects. I have found that white pepper is an effective passive teaching tool, and I sprinkle a small amount on the “off limits” plant or object. All my Animal Companions “test” the pepper once, and then they remember that scent forever as a “no” signal. I believe it is much safer than commercial chemical repellants, which could themselves be harmful to an Animal.
    There are many hazards in a normal Home: open toliet lids, electronic device chargers left plugged in without a device connected, and on and on. It is good to actually get down on the floor and look at the room from a Critter’s perspective to see potential dangers.
    We share our Life with them, and need to think of their needs in all we do.
    Thank You for reading.
    Gary
    Tampa

    Bonnie Bonsor says...

    December 26th, 2008, 9:01 pm

    Thanks for the info about the white pepper. Just wondering if anyone knows about Spider plants or ferns? Thanks for the information – my two cats Chloe and Patrick are pretty well trained – but I give them grass all the time for the roughage they need – and they seem to stay away from the plants, though Patrick has chomped on the spider plant some. I have not seen any real effects. Thanks for the info, though!

    Elizabeth says...

    December 27th, 2008, 10:18 am

    Hi Dawn: I love aloe too and keep it in my house for medicinal purposes (burns, cuts, irritated skin). Years ago when I was writing my book about pet friendly yards, I discovered aloe was toxic to pets and was very surprised. I’m so glad PETA gives us a forum to get the word out, my aloe will always be kept on the top shelf in my kitchen. In an upcoming blog, I will also write about good plants for pets – I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for the comment! – Elizabeth :D

    Elizabeth says...

    December 27th, 2008, 10:26 am

    Hi Gary: White pepper is a great deterrent for pets – it’s amazing how many household products act as safe deterrents for our companion animals. And you’re right – there are so many ways a pet can harm himself in a house – electric cords, medicine bottles left on counter tops, gates being blown open, guests inadvertently leaving doors open, etc. I like the idea of getting on their level to see what could entice them. Thanks for the input! – Elizabeth :D

    Elizabeth says...

    December 27th, 2008, 10:33 am

    Hi Bonnie: Spider plants are safe (in an upcoming blog, I will discuss safe, non toxic plants for our companion animals) and feather fern is okay. However, there are a lot of ferns – do you know the type of fern? Let me know. Thanks for the question. – Elizabeth :D

    Dawn says...

    December 28th, 2008, 10:18 pm

    Here is what one of my Veterinary Friends said regarding Aloe:
    “I know a lot of vets that use Aloe vera orally. Yes in high dosages it can cause vomiting & diarrhea. Esp in cats. I think if the eat the plant & get vomiting & diarrhea they just ate too much. Aloe & aloe derivatives are also used frequently for wound care.” The other friend has prescribed it for one of my cats, although it’s been so many years ago I can’t remember what for, but I know it served it’s purpose, so it would seem the best approach would be to keep our pets away from the plants and if prescribed by the Vet, to follow their instructions closely and not exceed the recommended dose, as it definitely can cause problems.

    Caroline says...

    December 30th, 2008, 8:27 pm

    Elizabeth – this is really great! Having an indoor cat – I have never been sure what plants are safe and which are not – especially because there are so many myths! As to Dawn’s double check on the Aloe – I am pretty sure PETA has its own fact checker and experts before posting – so your research and comments are unnecessary!

    Francesca says...

    February 20th, 2009, 9:27 am

    Why aren’t plants that are potentially harmful labeled as such? Perhaps PETA could spearhead a law requiring all plant sellers to label plants that might be poisonous to any animal species. A friend recently nearly lost her pet cat who was poisoned by the house plants, she had no idea they were harmful. Please, let’s get poisonous plants labeled with warnings.

    susan says...

    June 3rd, 2009, 5:15 pm

    I lost my 1yr old German Shepherd almost a year ago from poisoning by a SAGO PALM. I bought the plants because (1) they looked like something my dog wouldn’t chew, (2) they were recommended by our county agriculture dept. as “low-water use plants that were good near swimming pools” due to low litter. Nowhere, including the grower’s website, did I read that they were toxic to dogs, cats and horses. After our dog died, I came across the ASPCA list of toxic plants and read that SAGOS are in the top 5 most toxic. Also, per the ASPCA, the rate of reported poisonings has increased more than 200% since 2005.
    I contacted the nursery buyer for the retailer where I purchased the plants, Costco, and notified him of the Sago Palm’s toxicity and my dog’s death. I assured him that I was not looking for any financial assistance with my significant vet bills, only asking that Costco do the right thing and notify/warn their customers about the potential hazard that this plant poses to pets. It has been a year and, obviously, nothing has been done in that regard. I just warned potential buyers the other day, while I was shopping in Costco. They, like me, were disappointed that Costco does nothing to warn their customers of a known toxin.
    Ironically, and thankfully, I just came across an online petition asking the large retailers that widely sell these plants (Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart, and Sam’s Club) to label them. The author of the petition just lost his cat to this dangerous plant, and he wants to make sure no other pet suffers needlessly from ignorance about the Sago Palms toxicity. If you agree that it would be a public service for these retailers to clearly label these plants, please go online and sign the petition at: http://www.petitiononline.com/bellacat/petition.html . Also, please forward it to everyone you know that has a dog or cat. THANK YOU!!

    Andrea says...

    June 14th, 2013, 10:42 am

    Thank you Francesca and Susan, I most definitely agree with you both on the issue of labeling harmful plants as such. There are soo many different types of houseplants that most of us have NO idea could be harmful or Fatal to our pets or as I call my cat, my little fur baby :-) . I lost my first rescued kitty many year’s ago when that bad/recalled pet food was going around. It ended up being in his food and his treats. It ended up giving him kidney failure, he was vomiting and urinating blood. I took him to the vet immediately! They told me that my only option was euthanasia. I didn’t know what to do. Before I could make a decision he curled up real tight in my arms (which was his favorite spot) and passed away peacefully with his mama holding him and comforting him, wrapped in his favorite blankey. I just hope he passed knowing that I loved him with all my heart!!! I believe animals have some kind of intuition like that, they are very intelligent creatures! Well I’m getting off track but Susan my boyfriend & I will most definitely sign that petition for you and for the sake of all the worlds beautiful creatures!!! I also want to say THANK YOU to Peta for all the wonderful information I learned from this site!!! To everyone else please go to Susan’s link and PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION, All plants indoors or outdoors should be labeled if there poisonous!!! Thanks and to all have a Wonderful Day! -Andrea from St. Louis. :-)

    Jackie says...

    August 11th, 2013, 12:23 am

    I think there are inconsistencies in a lot of wesitws, including the ASPCA website. It states like the Umbrella Plant is non-toxic to cats an dogs but here it says that it is indeed toxic. When I am in Home Depot I use my phone to look up the plants I like and see if they are harmful to my dog. Thankfully my dog has no interest in houseplants but I keep him away just in case he ever does feel the need to experiment on my stuff. I would really like it if these big plant retailers put labels on their items because this is too confusing for me..

    Anyway thanks for the article, I will just stay away from Umbrella plants either way but these retailers need to get it together!

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