Updated Nov 7, 2022
While most plants look harmless, many species have evolved to contain poisonous compounds that discourage wildlife from eating them. This trait is good for the plants but problematic for domestic animals that now live side by side with unfriendly flora. Pet owners can protect their buddies from harm by knowing which houseplants and garden varieties are dangerous and practicing extra caution around those species.
To help you keep your furry friends safe, we’ll introduce you to 10 common plants that are poisonous to cats and dogs. We’ll go over what these plants look like and how to distinguish them in your home and garden. Then, we’ll discuss why each plant is toxic and how it can affect your pet.
Sago palms are tropical plants native to Japan. You can distinguish a sago palm from similar varieties by the tree’s frond-like leaves that grow directly from its trunk. The leaves have a shiny sheen and pointy tips that curl downward at the ends. Instead of producing fruits or flowers, sago palms produce exposed cones, like conifers or pines.
Before adding a sago palm to your landscape or houseplant collection, know these trees are one of the most toxic plants for animals. Ingestion of the plant’s seeds, leaves, or roots will send your dog, cat, or livestock to the emergency clinic with vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and jaundice symptoms.
The vet will jump in with intensive care, likely administering IV fluids and blood transfusions to save your pet. However, many sago palm ingestions are fatal to animals, causing irreparable liver failure and hemorrhaging. If you think your pet has consumed sago palm, go to the vet immediately. Responding to intoxication ASAP gives your pet a better chance of recovery.
Tulips are flowering perennial herbs common throughout the United States. These plants come in many color varieties but are most well known for their cup-like shape and popularity around Easter.
These spring harbingers are beautiful but also dangerous for pets. Tulips – and other bulbous plants like daffodils, hyacinths, and irises – contain toxic glycosides that are poisonous to dogs and cats when ingested. If your pet consumes any part of a tulip, it will likely start drooling, vomiting, or experiencing diarrhea.
If your buddy eats a tulip bulb, rush it to the emergency clinic. The bulbs are the most poisonous part of the plant and will likely cause severe stomach upset, lethargy, dehydration, and abdominal pain.
Lilies of the Valley are groundcover plants commonly found in temperate North American regions. These plants have delicate white flowers and a sweet fragrance. You can easily distinguish Lilies of the Valley from other flowers by their downward-facing bell-shaped blossoms, which dangle from a singular tall stem.
Lilies of the Valley may look harmless, but they’re poisonous to animals. These flowers contain over 30 types of cardiac glycosides, an enzyme that causes tremors, irregular heart rates, and seizures. If your animal consumes Lilies of the Valley, you may notice symptoms like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and shaking.
Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately, where a doctor will likely induce vomiting, perform gastric lavage, or administer charcoal to absorb the ingested poison. More severe symptoms include seizures, heart failure, and death.
Oleanders are large ornamental shrubs that grow in summer and fall. Oleanders are easy to spot in a garden; they often grow well over 10 feet tall and wide. They produce numerous multi-inch blooms in white, purple, pink, yellow, and red hues. Oleanders are heat and drought-tolerant, making them popular in coastal gardens.
Oleander plants are toxic to both people and animals. Contact with the tree’s sap can cause skin irritation and rashes. Worse yet, like Lilies of the Valley, oleanders contain cardiac glycosides that cause the heart to stop pumping.
If your dog, cat, or livestock animal ingests oleander, it may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, tremors, dehydration, and shock. Rush your animal to the vet clinic if you notice these symptoms. More severe cases can involve low blood pressure, seizures, bradycardia, ventricular contractions, valve blockages, and death.
Philodendrons are a family of common, low-maintenance houseplants. Many varieties are popular indoors, where they’ll sprout 4-inch-long leaves with little maintenance and low sunlight exposure. Birkin philodendrons are one popular cultivar known for their fast-growing, variegated leaves.
All parts of the philodendron plant are toxic to cats and dogs. Intoxication is more common in felines able to climb onto tabletops and shelves to nibble on houseplants. However, ingestion of this plant causes the same symptoms for any pet.
Philodendrons contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause oral swelling, excessive drooling, vomiting, and numbness. Other plant species like peace lilies and calla lilies also contain these compounds, so you should be especially careful about keeping any of these plants in a pet-friendly household.
Azaleas are flowering shrubs from the rhododendron family. These evergreen trees produce numerous bell and funnel-shaped flowers in various colors. Azaleas are especially popular in the Southern United States, where they often grow over 10 feet tall in natural landscapes and home gardens.
Azaleas and other rhododendron varieties have incredibly dangerous effects on pets. These lovely shrubs contain grayanotoxins that disrupt animals’ cardiac and musculoskeletal systems. Ingestions as small as 0.2% of your pet’s body weight can result in severe vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and tremors. Without prompt treatment, azalea intoxication can cause comas and even death.
Autumn crocuses are popular fall flowers known for their lily-like appearance and delicate pastel colors. You can distinguish this plant from other varieties by its tendency to spring up in the fall, long after spring-blooming crocuses have flowered. They’ll erupt from their bulbous roots into compact bouquets of purplish-pink flower heads.
Autumn crocus plants are highly toxic to cats, dogs, and livestock. These plants contain an alkaloid colchicine compound that causes intestinal cramping and hemorrhaging. If your furry friend eats any part of an autumn crocus plant, immediately take it to the veterinarian.
These plants cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, difficulty breathing, liver damage, and kidney failure. If your pet doesn’t exhibit symptoms immediately after consuming the plant, play it safe and go to the vet. Intoxication symptoms can appear a few days after ingestion.
Cyclamens are lovely winter-blooming plants native to the Alpine regions of Europe. Cyclamen plants are sold in nurseries across America with various cultivated colors and petal formations. They have round or heart-shaped succulent leaves and attractive butterfly-like blooms, often in rich purples, reds, fuchsias, and pinks.
While undoubtedly eye-catching, cyclamen plants are dangerous for your pets. These common houseplants contain saponins that cause respiratory and gastrointestinal irritation when consumed by dogs and cats.
Mild intoxications typically result in drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. If your buddy eats a lot of the plant – especially its roots – head to the vet. Larger ingestions can result in arrhythmia, seizures, and death.
Japanese yews are lovely conifers that grow in shrub and tree forms. These trees are low-maintenance and adaptable to a wide range of climates, making them useful in various landscape settings across the United States. You can distinguish a Japanese yew from other nearby plants by its flaky, peel-away bark, evergreen needles, and bright red berries called arils.
Japanese yew is very toxic to dogs, cats, and livestock. The Pet Poison Helpline says every part of these shrubs is poisonous, including the needle-like leaves and juicy, red berries.
The plant contains taxines, which are highly toxic alkaloids that cause difficulty breathing, oral swelling, lethargy, drooling, diarrhea, and vomiting if ingested. More serious signs of yew intoxication include hypertension, dilated pupils, bradycardia, comas, seizures, and death.
Dieffenbachia is a common houseplant beloved for its exotic appearance and ease of maintenance. These tropical perennials have oblong leaves covered in green and white blotches, perfect for brightening a low-light apartment or office space.
Dieffenbachias are poisonous to both humans and animals. Even touching this plant’s sap can cause some folks to break out in a rash. Unfortunately, the plant is far more dangerous to house pets looking for a crunchy green snack.
Dieffenbachias contain calcium oxalate crystals that break down bodily tissues. If your dog or cat consumes any part of a dieffenbachia plant, it may experience oral swelling, respiratory closure, foaming, drooling, or throwing up.
Just because a plant has poisonous qualities doesn’t mean you can’t grow it in your home or garden. It simply means you must be extra aware of the plant and pay special attention when your pet is nearby. Pet parents with curious animals or those prone to chewing on things should probably steer clear of the plants we discussed. It just takes one accidental ingestion for your pet to get seriously sick.
We couldn’t list all of the plants that are poisonous to animals, so you should always do research before adding new species around your pets. To learn more about plants that can harm your furry family members, read this guide to toxic and non-toxic plants from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Other Lawn Resources