Which Houseplants are Toxic for Pets?

Which Houseplants are Toxic for Pets?Plants and floral arrangements brighten any home's interior. Unfortunately, these natural additions present hidden dangers for your dog or cat. Poisonous household plants can have systemic effects when a dog or cat ingests them. Symptoms may range from mild GI issues to life-threatening problems.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says their poison control center hotline received 180,639 calls in 2016. One of the top ten toxins pets ingested were household plants. The organization recommends that pet parents learn about the toxicity of plants before adding them to their homes. 

Here's a guide to which plants are potentially dangerous and which are safe for your fur babies. If you believe your pet has eaten a poisonous plant, contact South Boston Animal Hospital immediately at (617) 269-0610 or call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435. 

Dangerous Holiday Plants

Around the holidays, your pet may become curious about the festive displays your family creates. Natural trees and colorful plants can be tempting to a dog or cat.

  1. Christmas trees - Cat and dogs love exploring Christmas trees like firs, spruces, and pines. When pets eat tree needles, it can cause mouth and stomach irritation. They can also cause GI tract obstructions and perforations. Pets who drink Christmas tree water may also suffer from illness if there are preservatives added to the Christmas tree.
    1. Use netting or Sticky Paws for Plants over the reservoir.
    2. Spray Christmas needles with a bitter-tasting, anti-chew spray.
    Cats and dogs can also accidentally topple over trees. Invest in a sturdy Christmas tree stand that can handle the weight of a cat that decides to scale the tree. Artificial trees may be less alluring for your feline and canine companions.
  2. Christmas cactus - Schlumbergera x buckleyi (Christmas cactus) is a hybrid that blooms in the winter. These cacti are non-toxic; however, pets can still suffer from mild stomach issues after they ingest it.
  3. Amaryllis - These red, white, and pink flowers belong to the Liliaceae family. They bloom in late November. Pets that ingest the petals can suffer from indigestion, diarrhea, respiratory depression, and hypotension (low blood pressure). The level of toxicity is mild to moderate.
  4. Mistletoe - Several types of mistletoe are toxic to pets. Phoradendron serotinum (American variety) is less poisonous than the Viscum album (European variety).  Most mistletoe sold in stores have the berries replaced by plastic ones. Only a small amount of mistletoe can cause vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. When pets eat the plant, it can cause abnormal heart rate, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia, seizures, cardiovascular problems, and even death. The plastic berries can cause intestinal obstruction.
  5. Holly - Ilex, or holly, is a flowering plant with red berries. Pets can suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and lethargy when they eat the leaves. It can also upset all parts of a pet's digestive tract. Alternate names for this plant are English holly, Chinese holly, Japanese holly, and saponins.
  6. Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima is the Latin name for the poinsettia. These red flowering plants aren't typically toxic to pets. However, their white sap can cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms, eye irritation, and skin rashes.

Toxic Houseplants

Cats and dogs can also get sick after eating regular house plants. Here are nine popular plants that are toxic to pets.

  1. Asparagus Ferns - Sapogenin is a toxic steroid found in every variety of Asparagus aethiopicus. The plant isn't related to asparagus, nor is it a fern. The plant's berries may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain when pets ingest them. Dogs and cats may develop allergic dermatitis if they repeatedly ingest asparagus ferns.
  2. Azalea - This rhododendron plant can kill pets. Only a few leaves can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling. Pets who ingest them may to fall into comas or die.
  3. Lilies - These flowers can be safe or dangerous depending on the variety. There are several lilies including Calla, Peruvian and Peace lilies that contain oxalate crystals. These cause minor issues like irritation to the tongue, mouth, and esophagus when ingested. Breeds like Asiatic, Day, Easter, Japanese Show, and Tiger lilies are highly toxic to cats. Even ingesting a tiny amount of these varieties can cause kidney failure in cats. If you see cats ingesting these plants, bring them to the South Boston Animal Hospital immediately for care.
  4. Tulips and Hyacinths - The bulbs contain the most toxins (not the leaves or flowers). Make sure that your pet doesn't dig them up. When ingested, these plants can cause mouth and esophageal irritation and gastrointestinal problems. More severe symptoms include increases in heart rate and respiration. A South Boston Animal Hospital veterinarian can treat these symptoms.
  5. Dieffenbachia - This popular, indoor plant can is toxic to cats and dogs. Dieffenbachia irritates the tongue and the lips if pets eat the plant. Other symptoms include vomiting, oral pain, swallowing issues, and decreased appetite. Varieties include dumb cane, tropic snow, and exotica.
  6. Jade Plant - Crasa ovata is the Latin term for the jade plant. Other names it has are the money plant, lucky plant, or money tree. Ingesting the plant causes diarrhea, vomiting, depression, ataxia (incoordination), and bradycardia (slow heartbeat).
  7. Elephant Ear - Colocasia (elephant ear) has a chemical that can cause oral irritation, increased salivation, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. Popular names for this plant include ape, caladium, cape, malanga, pai, taro, via, and via sori.
  8. Aloe Plants - This succulent has a toxic agent named aloin. It can poison dogs and cats. It causes pets to vomit and have reddish urine.
  9. Satin Pothos - This plant is known as the silk pothos. If pets ingest the plant, it can irritate the lips, mouth, and tongue. Additional symptoms include salivation, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.

For a full listing of plants toxic to dogs and cats, visit the ASPCA's website.


Safer House Plants

Here are some indoor plants that homeowners can safely use. They are non-toxic to dogs and cats.

  1. African Violet (Saintpaulia) - These tropical plants are native to East Africa. They grow well indoors. Their leaves are inedible, and they're not toxic.
  2. Baby Rubber Plant (Peperomia obtusifolia) - While the rubber plant (Ficus elastic) is poisonous, baby rubber plants are non-toxic alternatives you can use in your home.
  3. Boston Fern - Some fern varieties are highly toxic, especially for felines. Boston ferns are safer alternatives for cats.
  4. Baby Tears (Soleirolia Soleirolii) - This plant is child-safe and pet-safe. It produces beautiful white flowers.
  5. Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus) - This plant is perfect for hanging baskets. It prefers moisture and indirect light.
  6. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) - This Brazilian rainforest plant prefers high humidity and bright indirect sunlight.

To find more non-toxic plants for dogs and cats, visit the ASPCA's website.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested toxins, you should bring them to South Boston Animal Hospital immediately. Our veterinarians will help provide treatments to counteract the poisons. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. You can also call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center Hotline at (888) 426-4435. It is available 24-hours, 365 days a year.