Spring is coming! I don’t know who couldn’t love spring. The plants start to pop up through the snow, blooms are on trees and everything starts to green up. I love to garden, but spring does bring some pet hazards.
Tulips have allergenic lactones. Unrelated hyacinths have similar alkaloids. The bulbs concentrate these toxins, but the leaf and flower have some also. When tulips and hyacinths are chewed or ingested, the alkaloids cause tissue irritation in the mouth and esophagus. Most animals understand this hurts and stop. However a Labrador or other chewer might continue chewing the bulb. Then they would have intense salivation, vomiting, or even diarrhea, depending on the amount consumed. Eating even more will cause an increase in heart rate and changes in respiration. This should be treated by a veterinarian.
As much as I love daffodils (look at the 12,000 in Ashland Central park), they are toxic. They contain lycorine, which is also an alkaloid. This is a potent simulator of vomiting. Eating daffodils causes severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It can even cause cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. There are crystals in the outer layer of the bulbs (like hyacinths) which cause severe tissue irritation and secondary drooling, meaning most normal critters stop eating it. However, daffodil ingestion can cause severe symptoms so if you see Rover eating bulbs or see symptoms, you need to head to the vet.
Lilies are a mixed bag. Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies are not true lilies and not as dangerous as true lilies. They contain oxalate crystals like the daffodil. Because they irritate the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus (look for drooling) most animals leave them alone after a taste. However true lillies like Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies are highly toxic to cats! And they are not good for dogs. A couple of leaves or petals can cause severe kidney failure. Do not let an Easter Lily in your house. If you see your pet eat any part of a lily, bring the plant and your cat to a veterinarian for medical care. Early veterinary care is more likely to save your cat or dog.
The common spring crocus in the Iridaceae family cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea. But beware the Autumn Crocus of the Liliaceae family, which contains colchicine. The Autumn Crocus is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure. If you’re not sure which plant it is, bring plant and pet to your veterinarian immediately for care. Signs may be seen immediately but can be delayed for days.
Another plant I choose not to have in my garden is Lily of the Valley. This plant contains cardiac glycosides which will cause symptoms similar to digitalis (foxglove) ingestion. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures and death. Any pets that gets into Lily of the Valley should be taken immediately to a vet.
Peonies are one of my husband’s favorite flowers. I tolerate them out by the garage, but the roots, flowers
Not a spring flower, but Morning Glory seeds are toxic. Morning glories are native to America and can be found growing wild. Eating morning glory seeds can result in anything from diarrhea to hallucinations. Blurred vision and confusion have also been reported.
It is not just plants that are toxic. Most fertilizers only result in minor gastrointestinal irritation, but some fertilizers can be fatal without treatment.
Blood meal is dried, ground, and flash-frozen blood and contains 12% nitrogen. Most carnivores find it tasty. While it’s a great organic fertilizer, if ingested, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. This vomit is the rehydrated blood, so it can be scary. But it can also cause severe pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas. If the blood meal has added iron, ingestion can result in iron toxicity. Bring the label and the dog to the vet.
Bone Meal is defatted, dried, and flash-frozen animal bones ground to a powder. Dogs love bones and will readily seek it out in the bag and the soil. Unfortunately, ingested bone meal can form a large cement-like bone ball in the stomach. This means surgery for your pet.
Some fertilizers contain disulfoton or other types of organophosphates (OP). A single teaspoon of 1% disulfoton can kill a 55 lb dog! Organophosphates cause what veterinarians call SLUD (Salivation, Lacrimation (eye tearing), Urination, and Defecation). But seizures, difficulty breathing, hyperthermia, and other signs including death are possible.
Pesticides/Insecticides are at least irritants to the pet and should be kept away. Some can have organophosphates or carbamates which can be
“Cocoa Mulch” consists mostly of cocoa bean shells, is dangerous to your pets. The cocoa bean shells contain theobromine. Theobromine is in cocoa and coffee and helps me when I have an asthmatic like attack. However it is not well metabolized by animals. Theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, ataxia (think drunken stagger), and in serious cases, even death.
All the toxins should be kept up out of reach. Make sure all containers are well sealed and labeled. Even with appropriate cautions sometimes toxic exposures happen. If you think your pet has been poisoned, a trip to the vet is best. If you are not sure, you can call the animal poison control for advise. Make sure to get the case number if the vet needs to talk with the toxicologist after your trip to the vet.
While you are designing the garden, think also about non toxic dangers. Thorns on roses can cause scrapes and eye injuries. Embedded thorns can lead to an abscess. Metal lawn edging can slice a paw. Most of these
Most dogs will pass a rock or two from the rock zero-scape. But some dogs in the chewing breeds seem to have a fetish for eating rocks and wood chips. A bored or stressed over eater of rocks may be looking at surgery to remove the impaction.
Another hazard at our house is bees. The hives are off in a corner, but if the dogs should knock into one, the bees will make their displeasure known. Some of the mite treatments are also toxic to pets.
Spring is a wonderful time of year to be out and about! Most of the toxic plants let the animals know that they are toxic by the bad taste or irritation. A few, I would not have in my house or yard. With some care and caution, you, your pets and your vet can have a good time outside.
Dr. MJ Wixsom owns and practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center on Bellefonte Road in Flatwoods, KY and has her fourth book out. You can reach her at 606-928-6566 and through the contact form.