Know which garden plants pose danger to cats and dogs : Dr. Dana Koch, correspondent

Dear Dr. Dana,

I want to plant flowers in my garden for the spring season and wanted to know which are poisonous to my pets?

Dear Reader,

This is a wonderful question to ask during springtime when the warmer temperatures and sunshine help us grow a colorful array of new vegetation. Here are some of the plants I would avoid if you own pets.

  • Tulips: This beautiful plant contains contains glycosides known as tuliposide A and B and phytoanticipins called tulipalin A and B. These toxic chemicals are mostly concentrated in the bulbs and when chewed or ingested can result in significant irritation in the mouth and esophagus. The clinical signs frequently reported are profuse drooling, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. In the face of larger ingestion of the plant more severe symptoms will be apparent, such as changes in breathing and increase in heart rate. Evaluation and supportive care provided by your veterinarian is the best treatment advised.
  • Daffodils: These flowers are a personal favorite of mine to see during the spring months, but I caution pet owners that they are actually poisonous to both dogs and cats. The daffodil plant contain a substance called lycorine in the bulb of the plant which after ingested causes severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. The outer layer of the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals which causes severe tissue irritation and drooling. If you pet has ingested this plant do not delay in contacting your veterinarian immediately.
  • Lilies: There are several different types of lilies and many of these can cause poisonous effects in both dogs and cats. Cats are the most sensitive to the following types of lilies; tiger, day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese show lilies. If ingested there is a risk of acute kidney failure in our feline companions. The cat should be transported to an emergency hospital immediately where a veterinarian can begin the treatment process, which may include decontamination (induction of vomiting), evaluation of the kidneys and fluid diuresis. The more quickly treatment is begun the better prognosis for the cat. The ASPCA has deemed certain varieties of lilies highly toxic to dogs including peace lily, calla lily, lily of the valley and autumn crocus. If a dog ingests these plants, common clinical signs include gastrointestinal upset, depression, anorexia and tremors.
  • Azaleas: These colorful blooming plants pose a toxic threat to both dogs and cats. Azaleas contain grayanotoxins which disrupt the sodium channels involved in the normal functioning of skeletal and heart muscle. Following ingestion most animals experience several gastrointestinal effects including vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Additionally, some animals are reported to develop irregular heart rhythms, tremors, and weakness. The grayanotoxins are generally processed through the body rapidly so fortunately for animals ingesting a small amount the toxic effects do not last longer than a few hours. Regardless of the amount ingested it would be still wise to alert your veterinarian of the toxic plant ingestion and follow their recommendations for treatment.
  • Dieffenbachia: This may not be a common plant found in your garden but is very common in households. It is also known as dumb cane and can cause oral irritation or a burning sensation in the mouth, as well as vomiting and difficulty swallowing in dogs and cats. In extreme cases, dieffenbachia can cause comas or permanent damage to critical organs in the body. If you are aware of ingestion consult with your veterinarian or poison control to help treat your pet as soon as possible. They will often recommend decontamination with a designated amount of hydrogen peroxide based on your pet’s weight. If there is any swelling present an anti-histamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) would be suggested to reduce the inflammatory response.

Overall, it is best to keep your pets from having access to your garden and to closely monitor them during walks to prevent accidental ingestion of potentially toxic plants.

Dr. Dana Koch, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, works for HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service. Her professional interests include dentistry, pocket pets, preventative medicine and internal medicine. She services Bucks County, Philadelphia and South Jersey.

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