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Garden Plants That Can Be Toxic to Pets

At times it seems as though our pets like gardening just about as much as we do. They love to stay close to us when we are out working outside. And sometimes all that beautiful black dirt is just too irresistible to pass up digging up and rolling around in. Most of us are familiar with at least some of the houseplants that can be harmful to pets, but there are a few plants from the garden that can harm your pets, too.


First Off, I'm Not a Veterinarian

God bless their work, I couldn't do it. This short list of potentially toxic garden plants is not meant to be an exhaustive list. It is just a guide. The plants listed here are commonly grown in vegetable gardens, and do not include the hundreds of potentially toxic trees, shrubs, flowers or houseplants. The toxic effects of these plants vary with the species, age and health of each animal and the time of year, and growth conditions/stages of the plants. Some of the types of pets that may be affected by these plants include; dogs, cats, birds, fish, goats, mice, rabbits, horses and other livestock.

This information has been compiled from a number of credible sources including the ASPCA, the AVMA, the University of Illinois and the Canadian Poisonous Plant Information System. As with all issues regarding the health of your pets, it is best to consult with your veterinarian if you have questions regarding the potential toxicity of a specific plant.

Not So Healthy Veggies

Avocado (fruit and pits): This common food does all kinds of weird things to a number of different animals. Ingesting it causes death to the mammary tissues in goats and heart damage in cattle, mice, rabbits, fish and birds. Birds that ingest even a small amount of avocado should be treated immediately to prevent possible death. Cats and dogs may show signs of intestinal distress and should be watched closely for heart related symptoms.

Onions (and garlic): These two are in the same family and can cause allergic reactions and anemia in livestock, dogs, and especially in cats. Severe poisoning can be fatal.

Potatoes (leaves, flowers, and immature fruits): The entire potato plant contains a toxic substance called glycoalkaloids, but the skin, eyes and sprouts generally develop the most toxic levels. Green colored potatoes should be discarded, and skins and sprouts being composted should be buried and kept away from all domestic pets, livestock and wild animals.


Radishes (leaves and seeds): Can cause the break down of red-blood cells and weight loss in goats and other livestock.

Tomatoes (leaves, flowers and immature fruits): As members of the nightshade family, tomatoes can cause serious heart, nervous system and intestinal problems in cats and dogs. This is especially true of the immature fruit, which becomes less toxic as it ripens.

Potentially Harmful Herbs

Chives: chives have been known to be toxic to horses when leaves are ingested during growth in early spring.

Horseradish: Under normal circumstances, horseradish does not pose a threat to most animals. When ground up for use as a condiment, however, it may cause irritation to their mucous membranes.

Fruits Animals Should Fear

Grapes (including raisins): Grapes and raisins have been known to cause kidney damage and even complete kidney failure in dogs within 24 hours of ingestion. Their effect on cats and other animals are unknown.

Rhubarb (leaves): Causes oral irritation and intestinal and kidney damage in dogs and cats. The leaves are also toxic to pigs and goats.

Pesticides & Herbicides

Exposure to pesticides and herbicides can be extremely toxic to animals that live or exercise in areas near their use-including you! Use organic controls whenever possible, and if you decide to use chemicals, be sure to keep them stored safely away from children and animals.

Visible Symptoms of Plant Poisoning

Visible signs of animal poisoning can include refusal of food, swollen tongue, pale gums or tongue, diarrhea, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, convulsions, and severe or persistent vomiting. As most pet owners know, it is common for dogs and cats to vomit after eating or chewing on plants. Persistent or severe vomiting, however, could be a sign of something more serious.

What to Do

If your pet appears to be showing signs of plant poisoning, consult with your veterinarian immediately. Identify the plant if possible, and bring along a sample of it to give to the veterinarian.

Keeping Pets Out of Harms Way

The garden plants listed above should be kept out of your animals diet. When tying dogs and cats outside, be sure their tether isn't long enough to reach garden plants or make sure they are supervised if roaming free near the garden.

If necessary, erect sufficient fencing to keep animals out of the garden and construct special outdoor play areas for cats and dogs. Bury potentially harmful plants in the compost pile to prevent animals from consuming them.

Additional Sources of Information:

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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April 13, 20070 found this helpful

Here's some additional information for cats specifically: Don't think your cat's know what's best for them: My daughters cat just LOVES to eat ANY and ALL flowers, especially Rhodies. Imagine our horror when we found that rhododendrons are poisonous!

*** I got this great information from a web site, but can't remember exactly where. This is important information. At the bottom is a fairly complete list of plants poison to cats.


-----> Plants that will poison your cats

      Most of us are surrounded by plants. They add the needed finishing touches to any decor. However, a small percentage of these plants have the potential to cause harm of our cats and this beautiful plants could become a deadly enemy. Cats are generally sensible creatures - but nevertheless they can become victims of poisoning.

-----> Who is at risk?

      Most cats are fastidious creatures and are careful what they eat. Poisoning in cats is therefore generally rare. Young cats, and especially indoor cats are most at risk as they may chew houseplants through curiosity or boredom. When a cat is confined to a run or lives entirely indoors-hazardous plants should be removed from its environment. Cats given free access to the outside world tend to have other things to occupy their minds than sampling unfamiliar vegetation. But even free roaming adult cats may accidentally ingest needles or seeds that have become entangled in their coat during grooming. Many cats love to eat grass to aid their digestion. Indoor cats may crave some greenery and chew at houseplants.

      There are many plants that are poisonous to cats. They vary in their toxicity. Many are irritant rather than poisonous. Below is a list of houseplants that can be harmful or fatal depending on the quantity swallowed. Also, remember that cats that chew plants are exposed to any chemical pesticides or fertilizers that may have been applied directly to the plants or through the soil.

-----> What are the signs of poisoning?

      The signs of poisoning can be vary - drooling, repeated vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, suddenly collapse, excessive irritation (red, swollen, blistering or raw) of the skin, the mouth or throat.

-----> Skin reactions

      Its more common for plants to cause skin irritation in cats than to poison them. Contact with the leaves, stems or sap of certain plants can cause rashes and hypersensitivity to sunlight resulting in sunburn. In cats these plants can cause blistering or itching of the mouth and gums. Sneezing and eye problems can also be caused through contact with these plants.

-----> What to do?

   You should contact your veterinary surgeon immediately if your cat is showing signs of poisoning. If you see your cat eat something that you suspect to be poisonous, dont attempt to make it vomit. Take your cat to the vet with a sample of the plant or even better a plant label. Make a note of the time of eating and any symptoms. Several days may pass between the ingestion of the undesirable material and the effects.

-----> How to prevent the poisoning in cats?

  You can prevent your cat from chewing on  plants by misting the leaves then sprinkling them with cayenne pepper. You might also want to consider planting a container of grass (regular grass, not the drug) for your cat. If your cats are digging in your pots, go to your local hobby/craft store and buy a few pieces of plastic needlepoint canvas. Trim it to the shape of the pot, cut a slit in it and then a hole  in the center for the plant. Rest it on top of the soil and your cat will be unable to dig. Of course its impossible for you to prevent your cat coming into contact with hazardous plants in neighboring gardens but you can make a note of any toxic plants in their gardens. After gardening, ensure hedge clippings or uprooted plants are tidied up. Bulbs, rhizomes, and the roots can be the most hazardous parts of some plants


              Almond (Pits)

              Aloe Vera



              Apple (seeds)

              Apple Leaf Croton

              Apricot (Pits)


              Asparagus Fern

              Autumn Crocus

              Avacado (fruit and pit)


              Baby's Breath






              Bird of Paradise


              Black-eyed Susan

              Black Locust

              Bleeding Heart





              Branching Ivy


              Buddist Pine

              Burning Bush


              Cactus, Candelabra


              Calla Lily

              Castor Bean


              Charming Dieffenbachia

              Cherry (pits, seeds & wilting leaves)

              Cherry, most wild varieties

              Cherry, ground

              Cherry, Laurel


              Chinese Evergreen

              Christmas Rose







              Corn Plant

              Cornstalk Plant



              Crocus, Autumn

              Crown of Thorns

              Cuban Laurel

              Cutleaf Philodendron






              Deadly Nightshade

              Death Camas

              Devil's Ivy




              Dracaena Palm

              Dragon Tree

              Dumb Cane

              Easter Lily




              Elephant Ear

              Emerald Feather

              English Ivy





              Fiddle-leaf fig

              Florida Beauty


              Four O'Clock


              Fruit Salad Plant


              German Ivy

              Giant Dumb Cane

              Glacier IvyGolden Chain

              Gold Dieffenbachia

              Gold Dust Dracaena

              Golden Glow

              Golden Pothos

              Gopher Purge

              Hahn's Self-Branching Ivy

              Heartland Philodendron


              Hemlock, Poison

              Hemlock, Water






              Horse Chestnuts

              Hurricane Plant



              Indian Rubber Plant

              Indian Tobacco


              Iris Ivy

              Jack in the Pulpit

              Janet Craig Dracaena

              Japanese Show Lily

              Java Beans


              Jerusalem Cherry

              Jimson Weed


              Jungle Trumpets


              Lacy Tree Philodendron





              Lily Spider

              Lily of the Valley



              Madagascar Dragon Tree

              Marble Queen



              Mescal Bean

              Mexican Breadfruit

              Miniature Croton


              Mock Orange



              Morning Glory

         Mother-in Law's Tongue

              Morning Glory

              Mountain Laurel



              Needlepoint Ivy





              Oriental Lily 

              Peace Lily

              Peach (pits and wilting leaves)

              Pencil Cactus





              Plumosa Fern


              Poinsettia (low toxicity)

              Poison Hemlock

              Poison Ivy

              Poison Oak





              Precatory Bean


              Privet, Common

              Red Emerald

              Red Princess

              Red-Margined Dracaena



              Ribbon Plant

              Rosemary Pea

              Rubber Plant 

              Saddle Leaf Philodendron

              Sago Palm

              Satin Pothos


              Scotch Broom

              Silver Pothos

              Skunk Cabbage


              Snow on the Mountain

              Spotted Dumb Cane


              Star of Bethlehem

              String of Pearls

              Striped Dracaena

              Sweetheart Ivy


              Swiss Cheese plant

              Tansy Mustard

              Taro Vine

              Tiger Lily


              Tomato Plant (green fruit, stem and leaves)

              Tree Philodendron

              Tropic Snow Dieffenbachia


              Tung Tree 

              Virginia Creeper

              Water Hemlock

              Weeping Fig

              Wild Call



              Japanese Yew

              English Yew

              Western Yew

              American Yew

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
April 14, 20070 found this helpful

Lily of the valley is poison to pets.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
May 24, 20070 found this helpful

Hello, my neighbor recently planted what appear to be marigolds. My cat was seen digging around them and after returning from vacation 7 days later I found vomit, mostly bile near the cats bedding. He seems lifeless,won't eat his body twitches when trying to stand or is in sunlight. He was very dehydrated and feel he has been poisoned. He was sent to the Vet, however was not diagnosed at that time with poisoning. I thought he just didn't eat while we were away, as he is quite dependant on our affection. I am about to take him back after reading the list of flowers. The cat is almost paralyzed, was also sneazing and sounds a little stuffed up in his breathing.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
August 28, 20070 found this helpful

My year and a half old black lab 2 days ago collapsed and had a seizure in front of me, I rushed him to the vet not knowing what or if he had gotten into. The vet thought it may be pancreatitis cause he began to vomit after arriving there. Thankfully they decided to keep him there to monitor him, about 2 am I received a phone call that he had gone into a lethal cardiac rhythm called ventricular tachycardia with a heart rate over 300 beats per minute and they were having a difficult time converting his rhythm, thankfully they did. They kept asking if he could have ingested something in the yard, I had just moved into a new house a few days prior so I said anything is possible. Long story short I found berries on a vine growing from the neighbours yard, looked it up on the net to find its name was bittersweet nightshade. Notified the vet and was told that that was what he had to of ingested due to all of his signs and symptoms. It is a very deadly weed for both animals and children. Please be aware of what they look like cause I don't want anyone to ever go through what I have gone through in the past 48 hours. Like I said, keep children away from them as well because what I have read is that it takes as little as 3 of these berries to kill a child.

Editor's Note: Here is a picture of it and information about it:

http://ipm.ppws  eed_id/soldu.htm

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
August 29, 20070 found this helpful

I have a house Rabbit and it's eaten a lily that that we keep in a pot. Will this do the rabbit any harm?

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March 25, 20110 found this helpful

The mention of avocado really blows my mind. My Yorkie was quite ill last summer and we never did find out what caused all the problems including tremors; which by the way, are now gone. I tried a puppy food at Petsmart which contained avocado. I did end up bringing it back because she didn't like it anyway. Now I am wondering if that is what made her sick. Can't remember the brand but will go to Petsmart now and look for it. I will know it when I see it. I have her on food purchased from the vet and she is doing great.

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March 25, 20110 found this helpful

I double checked on the food that has avocados and it is Avoderm. Thought pet owners would like to know.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
March 25, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for all the helpful information. There are many plants on the list that I had never heard were toxic to our companion animals, as well as children. I will be sure that I keep the ones on the list that grow in our area out of my cat and 2 Miniature Schnauzers reach. This information is really timely as we lost our beautiful Golden Retriever in January 2011 to what the vet first thought was poisoning from plants in our yard. When I named the plants that we have, he said none of those would do what had happened to Dakota.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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