Poisonous Plants for Dogs & What to Do if Your Dog Eats One
Some house and garden plants, tree leaves, flowers, and berries are poisonous if eaten by dogs. Find out which ones are toxic and how to recognize the warning signs if your dog has eaten the wrong plant.
Our dogs join us in so many parts of our day in so many places: our homes, friends' homes, yards, dog parks, beaches, and outdoor trails. And while our dogs walk, run, and jump around with us, they come into contact with dozens of different house plants, trees, garden plants, and more as they’re out exploring and enjoying nature with us.
Unfortunately, some of those plants that humans find tasty or beautiful can be hazardous to dogs if they eat them. And with their curious nature and insatiable appetites, it’s almost inevitable your dog will sniff, chew, and eat weird stuff once in a while.
For instance, an upset stomach may drive a dog to eat grass or another plant. Or a dog may like the smell, texture, or taste of a particular plant or flower. There's even a condition known as pica, which describes people and animals eating things not normally considered food, that provide no nutritional benefit to the person or animal. (Rock chewers, we’re looking at you.)
Any pet owner can probably tell you at least one story about the time their dog ate something they shouldn’t have. When they do eat things we wish they wouldn't, it’s important to know whether that thing is toxic to dogs, and what to do if you suspect your pooch has ingested something poisonous.
Trees, Shrubs, and Other Poisonous Plants to Dogs
If your dog seems to be having a bad response to ingesting a plant (see What to Do if Your Dog Has Been Poisoned below), call your veterinarian or an animal poisoning hotline.
Because there are so many plants around us every day, it's hard to provide a completely comprehensive list of safe and unsafe plants for dogs. But Tina Wismer, DVM, MS, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian and senior director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, shared with us five common plant culprits with more severe clinical signs.
"Eating any plant can cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea in pets," Wismer points out. But she says vets see more severe signs of poisoning from these plants:
- Sago palm (Cyccas revoluta) is used as a landscape plant in the southern U.S. and is a houseplant in colder climates. It's toxic to all pets (that includes cats, too) and can cause symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, liver failure, and potentially death. All parts of the sago palm are poisonous, but the seed or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxins.
- Lily of the valley (Convallaria spp.) is a common landscaping plant. Even a small exposure to any part of the lily of the valley plant can cause dangerous changes in a dog's heart rate and rhythm.
- Oleander (Nerium oleander) is another common landscaping plant, especially on the west coast. Like lily of the valley, oleander also contains cardiac glycosides, which increase the heart's output and contractions, changing a dog's heart rate and heart rhythm.
- Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is a plant that grows wild, is sometimes used in landscaping, and whose seeds can be used to make jewelry. Castor bean is highly toxic and can cause severe stomach upset, liver failure, and tremors.
- Marijuana (Cannabis sativa), grown for human recreational and medicinal uses, if eaten by dogs can cause depression, unsteady gait, low heart rate, and low temperature. Ingestion of more concentrated THC products can cause more severe signs, including seizures.
Here's a sampling of other outdoor plants whose leaves, berries, stems, and more can poison dogs who eat them:
- Autumn crocus
- English ivy
- Mushrooms you don't recognize as safe
- Night blooming jasmine is toxic if ingested, especially the berries. Plants in the Jasmine family, however, are not toxic.
- Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
Common House Plants that are Poisonous to Dogs
It’s not just trees and shrubs in your landscaping and the great outdoors you’ll need to be on the lookout for. Many common houseplants are also toxic if your dog ingests them. While it’s less likely your dog will want to snack on these than say, your cat, puppies especially may be prone to let their curious noses wander into uncharted munching territory. Keep plants out of their reach, and away from high-use areas like their dog bed or crate. While not exhaustive, here’s a list of common house plants you’ll want to keep an eye on:
- Calla lilies
- Corn plant (also known as Dracaena)
- English ivy
- Fig (or ficus) tree
- Jade plant
- Peace lily
- Octopus tree
- Snake plant (also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)
What to Do if Your Dog has Been Poisoned
If you know your dog has eaten a poisonous plant, here's what to do:
- Remove your dog from proximity to the plant. Note the plant's name, if you recognize it, or take a picture of it to help medical professionals in treating your dog.
- Make sure your dog is breathing, alert, and behaving normally. Place a call your veterinarian or a phone hotline to help with pet poisoning, like Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661, or ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. Remember, hotlines like these do charge for their services, so a consultation fee may apply. A professional can tell you whether you need to treat your dog at home or bring her in to be seen by a veterinarian.
- Call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary clinic immediately if your dog is not behaving normally. Avoid any at-home remedies or antidotes that have not been directed for use by your veterinarian. That includes making your dog vomit. Vomiting may be the right approach, but it might also be dangerous based on what your dog ingested and what's happening in the dog's body.
Remember, the sooner you get help for a dog who's eaten a poisonous plant, the better the chances your dog can recover from poisoning. Treatment, whether at home under a veterinarian's orders or in a veterinary hospital, will be specific to the plant. Your veterinarian may give your dog intravenous fluid, flush your dog's stomach, give your dog activated charcoal to absorb the toxin, or need to perform surgery. Supportive medications may help your dog's kidneys and liver process the poison and heal.
The ASPCA Poison Control estimates that 25 percent of poisoned pets recover within two hours. Even with treatment, one in 100 poisoned pets die.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so check lists of toxic and non-toxic plants before you bring greenery into the home or plant in the yard or garden. Your dog and your veterinarian will thank you.