What Plants Are Toxic to Pets?

Q: What are common plants that are toxic to pets?

A: Lilies are commonly toxic to cats, and some varieties are toxic to dogs. All parts of the lily plants are toxic, and only a small amount of plant ingestion can be fatal. The lily family of plants cause kidney failure. Treatment must be started early after ingestion to prevent progression of the poisoning.

There are plants that contain drugs called cardiac glycosides. These are similar to digitalis, which has been used medically for the treatment of heart failure. Plants containing glycosides cause both gastrointestinal and heart abnormalities.  Examples of these plants include Oleander, Lily of the Valley, and Foxglove.  All parts of the plant contain the toxic substances.  

There is an ornamental palm that has become popular called Cycad Palm or Sago Palm. The toxic compound, Cycasin, can cause liver failure. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds (nuts) are particularly dangerous. Ingestion of one or more seeds can lead to liver failure and death.

Azaleas and Rhododendron contain a toxin called grayanotoxin. All parts of the plant contain this poison. Grayanotoxin affects the integrity of the cell membrane, and clinical signs are associated with multiple systems, but most commonly include gastrointestinal signs, depression, and shock.

Despite marijuana’s current popularity, it can be toxic to pets. THC can cause urinary incontinence, incoordination, and depression, but rarely causes death.

Paws and Claws Column

By Dr. Frank Lavac, MS, DVM, VCA.

He can be reached by calling 310-828-4587.


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