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

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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 Post)
April 14, 20070 found this helpful

Lily of the valley is poison to pets.

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By David Cox (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.

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By Becky (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:

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By Rob (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.

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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.

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October 9, 20190 found this helpful

Hi there,

What an extensive list of plants. I'd just like to highlight the Hydrangeas. These plants although very pretty and attractive have high toxins in the stems and flowers. The toxin is prussic acid or cyanide.

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