Poisonous plants and your pup
Plants are having a real moment right now, and for good reason. They add beauty to your home, help you feel more in tune with nature and even boast health benefits. Unfortunately, some of the most popular and best indoor plants are poisonous plants for dogs, who don’t know which ones are safe to munch on or play with and which absolutely aren’t. This is important to know, especially if you’re buying plants online.
With veterinary help, we’re calling out the most common indoor and outdoor poisonous plants for dogs so you can avoid or get rid of them, replacing them with some pup-friendly options. Have a cat too? You’ll also want to know the plants that are toxic to cats.
If you suspect that your pup has munched on any of these poisonous plants for dogs, consult your vet immediately, or call the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 for guidance.
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Toxic components: Saponins and anthraquinones
Because aloe is so easy to care for and boasts medicinal qualities, it’s a common household plant that people keep both indoors and outdoors. Unfortunately, the gooey gel, beloved for its soothing benefits, contains two components that make this plant toxic to dogs when consumed. Your pet can’t tell you it’s feeling crummy, but there are signs it took a bite out of your aloe plant: Lethargy and upset stomach, including vomiting and diarrhea, are red flags. If you bring this plant into your home, keep it high up—like on a sink ledge—so it’s inaccessible.
Swap it: Some argue that the zebra haworthia is perhaps more beautiful than aloe vera, and it’s perfectly safe for your pup!
Toxic component: Insoluble calcium oxalates
The winding, ivy-like golden pothos is another poisonous plant for dogs, and this one contains insoluble calcium oxalates—glass-like crystals that can cause severe discomfort when eaten. One of the key symptoms is oral itching and irritation, which can sometimes lead to intense burning and pain in and around your pet’s mouth. It can also lead to excessive drooling, vomiting or difficulty swallowing.
Swap it: With its broad, lush leaves, the prayer plant is an excellent replacement for the golden pothos. To be extra safe, though, you can always opt for artificial plants—they look just as good as the real deal.
Toxic components: Cardiotoxins and neurotoxins
Though it’s a wonderful beacon for some of our favorite insects—including monarch butterflies and tussock moths—milkweed is a poisonous plant for dogs. Some species contain cardiotoxins that affect a pet’s heart, while others contain neurotoxins that can affect organ function and mental state. As such, always keep this plant outdoors and/or out of reach of your dog.
Pups that consume milkweed can develop depression, weakness and diarrhea, as well as more intense reactions, such as seizures, breathing difficulty, organ failure and even death.
Swap it: A beautiful alternative to milkweed is baby’s breath, a delicate flower with tiny white or pink buds. It’s beautiful in a garden and in bouquets. Follow these plant-watering tips to ensure it stays healthy.
Toxic component: Cycasin
The sago palm is leafy, beautiful and very easy to grow, which makes it a popular choice as an indoor plant. But it’s also toxic to dogs, so pet parents should definitely keep it out of the house. “If consumed by your dog, the sago palm will cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, as well as stumbling, tremors, seizures and temperature-regulation issues,” warns Christie Long, DVM, head of veterinary medicine at Modern Animal in West Hollywood, California. “Ultimately, it causes liver failure, and death can occur with ingestion of an amount as small as a single seed.”
Swap it: Try the parlor palm, a beautifully lush tall indoor plant that adds a lot of charm to any space.
Natalia Ganelin/Getty Images
Toxic component: Grayantoxin
You love that azaleas are bursting with color. Your dog loves that they’re so interesting to look at. Unfortunately, all parts of the azalea plant are poisonous to dogs, including the flowers, leaves, seeds and even honey that’s made from the nectar.
“When azaleas are consumed by your dog, it can result in hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, vision problems, slow heart rate, heart arrhythmia and/or low blood pressure, cardiovascular collapse and possible death,” warns Shelly Zacharias, DVM, a veterinarian and the vice president of medical affairs at Gallant, a pet stem cell banking company.
Swap it: For a similar burst of color, try a pink-hued bromeliad plant instead. Trouble with your plants? Explore why powdery mildew occurs, then take a minute to read up on how to deal with brown tips on plant leaves.
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Toxic components: Tulipalin A and B
Tulips are one of the most popular plants come springtime, but they can cause big problems for curious canines. The flowers and stems are toxic, and the bulbs are especially dangerous when consumed. Clinical signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation and even depression, notes the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Swap it: Another springtime favorite you can try instead is the gerbera daisy, which comes in lots of different hues. And if you’re a serious plant lover, consider one of these plant subscription boxes.
Garlic and onion
Allium sativum and Allium cepa
Toxic component: N-propyl disulfide
Though it’s easy to assume that all vegetables and herbs found in the garden are perfectly OK for your pup, that’s not always true. Alliums—a genus of herbs that includes garlic and onions—are poisonous plants for dogs.
“Any plant in the allium family, if ingested in large enough quantities, can cause a severe reaction in the bloodstream called hemolysis, in which red blood cells are destroyed in large numbers,” says Dr. Long. “The results are severe weakness, rapid breathing and red-colored urine.”
She adds that forced vomiting by a veterinarian is key here, and many dogs will require blood transfusions to replace the blood cells that are damaged in order to survive.
Swap it: It’s tricky to swap something for garlic and onions since they’re such common cooking staples, though you could give basil a try. Not only is it easy to maintain, but it’s also safe for dogs. That said, if you can’t live without garlic and onions, keep them completely out of reach of your pets by placing them in a sealed container. And prevent your pup from exploring the garden if you’re growing alliums.
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Toxic components: Insoluble calcium oxalates and proteolytic enzyme
This stout, leafy low-light indoor houseplant may be pretty, but you’ll need to keep the tropical dumb cane out of reach of canines. “This plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are similar to microscopic pieces of glass resembling needles,” explains Dr. Zacharias. “Chewing or ingesting it causes toxicity. Common symptoms are vomiting, swelling of the mouth and/or throat, severe oral pain, pawing at the mouth or eyes, severe skin irritation, agitation, coughing, gagging and hypersalivation.”
Simply coming into contact with the plant can cause symptoms as well. If your dog’s eyes and skin are exposed, flush them immediately or give your dog a bath.
Swap it: For those similarly broad, rich green leaves, try the money tree instead. Not only is it safe for dogs, but some say it also brings good luck!
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Toxic component: Insoluble calcium oxalates
Alocasia—also known as elephant’s ear—is a striking dark green plant with large leaves, ideal for sprucing up indoor spaces. But like the dumb cane, it contains glass-like insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that can cause severe irritation both internally and externally, according to the Pet Poison Hotline. If your dog consumes it, you’ll need to make an immediate visit to your vet to monitor and treat symptoms. Should the plant irritate your dog’s skin or eyes, give your pup a bath and/or flush its skin and eyes with water.
Swap it: The low-maintenance calathea pinstripe lends a similar tropical aesthetic but is completely safe for your pup. As an added bonus, it’s also an air-purifying plant, releasing oxygen and detoxifying your home.
Liudmyla Liudmyla/Getty Images
Citrus plants and peels
Toxic components: Essential oils and psoralens
“Many [citrus] plants that produce edible fruit—including grapefruit, oranges and lemons—are toxic if the actual plant portion is ingested,” says Dr. Zacharias. “For example, the skin of the fruit, the leaves or the stems can often be dangerous.”
Whether you grow these plants in your yard or decorate with indoor fruit trees, keep them away from your dog. As for citrus fruits, store them out of reach of pets—like in a drawer or container in the fridge. And safely discard your peels to ensure a nosy dog can’t dig them out of the trash.
How will you know if your pup has been munching on citrus plants? Reactions may not be as severe as with other poisonous plants for dogs (it can cause skin inflammation), but if you suspect your four-legged friend has nibbled on one, call your vet for guidance. The doctor may request that you bring your dog in, especially if severe symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea, occur.
Swap it: Dog owners can do their pets a favor by trading citrus plants for hanging plants that are well out of reach of curious pets. If you miss the height of taller indoor citrus trees, try the Musa Dwarf Cavendish banana tree, which is both safe for dogs and a fruit producer.
Toxic component: Cardiac glycosides
Oleander, known for its white or pink flowers and height that provides privacy between yards, is another poisonous plant for dogs. (And humans, for that matter.)
“Oleander ingestion causes extreme salivation, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. In severe cases, it causes liver failure and death, and it can ultimately interfere with the heart’s ability to beat properly,” explains Dr. Long. “Once it is known that the dog ingested these poisonous leaves, rapid transfer to a veterinary hospital where vomiting can be induced is key. Supportive therapy with drugs designed to control gastrointestinal signs, as well as reverse liver and heart issues, is key to survival.”
Swap it: People plant oleander for vibrant, lush outdoor foliage. For something similar, try a crepe myrtle tree instead. Worried about not having the greenest thumb? Don’t worry—it’s possible to bring a dead plant back to life.
Toxic component: Saponins
Because of its striking appearance and the fact that it’s very hard to kill, the snake plant is found in houses all across the world. Unfortunately, snake plants are poisonous plants for dogs and can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the ASPCA. It’s important to contact your veterinarian right away if you think your dog has ingested any portion of a snake plant. Depending on the severity, you may need to simply monitor and treat your dog’s symptoms, or you may need to take your dog in for more aggressive treatment.
Swap it: It might look and sound similar to a snake plant, but the calathea rattlesnake plant is perfectly safe for your pup.
Federica Grassi/Getty Images
Toxic component: Indole alkaloids
This isn’t just a beautiful flowering plant; it’s a flowering vine whose buds uncurl when the morning sun hits them. Morning glories may be irresistible, but they’re also poisonous to humans and dogs alike. “The seeds are most toxic, and canine consumption can cause vomiting, nausea, pupil dilation, hallucinations, incoordination, diarrhea, anemia, confusion and liver failure,” notes Dr. Zacharias.
Go to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary center right away if you suspect your dog has chomped on this plant. Treatment consists of activated charcoal, IV fluid administration and ongoing symptomatic support.
Swap it: For vibrant flowers reminiscent of the morning glory, go with petunias. They’re particularly lovely in a hanging pot, and they won’t make your dog sick.
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Toxic component: Delta-9-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
With the increase in legalized social and medicinal marijuana, it’s become more commonplace to have this plant in homes and yards. While OK for humans, it can cause adverse reactions in dogs who ingest it.
“In small quantities, marijuana causes lethargy, trembling, urinary incontinence and anxiety. In large quantities—which are often ingested with chocolate in the form of pot edibles—dogs can experience seizures, coma and death,” says Dr. Long. That’s because chocolate itself is toxic to dogs. Combine two toxic substances, and you have a serious issue. Affected dogs need immediate treatment.
Swap it: Keep your medical supply of marijuana out of reach of your pet by sealing it in a container and discarding items once they’ve been used. Instead of swapping it with another plant, you can try CBD for similar benefits. It’s safe for pets in some forms; in fact, you can even give your dog CBD, though you’ll want to talk to your vet beforehand.
Lily of the valley
Toxic component: Cardenolides
Known for its delicate white flowers, lily of the valley is a beloved indoor and outdoor flower. But pet parents should avoid it in their home and garden—it is a highly poisonous plant for dogs, and ingestion can lead to vomiting, irregular heartbeat, reduced blood pressure, confusion and disorientation. In severe cases, it can even cause seizures or lead to a coma. Consult your veterinarian immediately for further instruction if you suspect your dog has consumed this plant.
Swap it: With equally delicate and feminine blooms, orchids are a dog-friendly alternative even beginner gardeners will love.
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Toxic component: Taxine
Yew is an evergreen shrub typically found outdoors, and it’s a big no-no for households with dogs.
“If ingested, it can cause sudden death, trembling, muscle weakness, trouble breathing, collapse and heart arrhythmia,” says Dr. Zacharias. “If you suspect your canine has eaten any part of this plant, immediately go to your veterinarian or emergency veterinary center. Treatment will consist of gastrointestinal decontamination—activated charcoal or possibly gastric lavage [stomach pumping] or an enema—as well as IV fluid therapy and supportive therapy for any respiratory or cardiovascular function.”
Swap it: Some gardeners may argue that plants are better than dogs, but let’s face it: If you have a pup, you love it to bits, and you don’t want any harm to come to it. So ditch the yew around your house, and opt for a safer alternative. The hawthorn shrub looks very similar to yew, though it produces small flowers instead of red berries.
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Toxic component: Saponins
The plantain lily—often referred to by its scientific name, Hosta—is toxic to pets, just as many other lilies are. Every portion of the plant is poisonous, including the stems, flowers and bulb.
“Hostas can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal distress and can cause skin irritation if your dog rubs up against it frequently,” says veterinarian Maria Botinas, DVM, the medical director of veterinary staffing company IndeVets. “After hosta ingestion, a wide variety of clinical signs can occur, ranging from excessive drooling to severe gastrointestinal signs.”
Even if your dog ingests only a small portion of a hosta, contact your veterinarian.
Swap it: While many people keep spider plants indoors, you can also plant them outside, where they can offer similar lush, full foliage to hostas. If you do purchase one, make sure you’re aware of the spider plant care tips and tricks to ensure yours has a long life.
Bracken fern and emerald fern
Pteridium aquilinum and Asparagus densiflorus
Toxic component: Sapogenins
There are many different types of ferns, and not all are poisonous. But quite a few ferns are toxic to dogs—the Bracken and emerald included. Your best bet is to do a little research in advance before bringing a fern into your home or adding one to your garden.
“Side effects range from mild to quite severe. If ingested, pets can experience vomiting, diarrhea and/or abdominal pain,” says Dr. Botinas. “Certain types of ferns, like the Bracken fern, can be lethal if ingested. Repeated exposure can cause inflammation of the skin as well. The emerald fern is considered to be the most toxic of the ferns.”
If your dog eats part of a toxic fern, collect a sample of the plant (or take a photo) and take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible so the vet can begin proper decontamination efforts.
Swap it: If you love the dainty, lacy look of ferns but want to keep your pet safe, opt for a dog-safe plant like the autumn fern, a delicate variety with lacy fronds.
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Toxic component: Asparagine
As beautiful as the flowering hibiscus plant is, this one should be kept out of reach of your sweet pup. Both the blooms and stems are poisonous, and the bulb is the most toxic of all.
“A wide range of clinical signs can occur after ingestion,” says Dr. Botinas, who notes that symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on how much your dog ate. You may notice vomiting, diarrhea or nausea, and a veterinarian may spot burns or blisters in your pet’s digestive system.
If your dog eats any part of a hibiscus plant, consult your vet right away.
Swap it: With its beautiful green foliage and flowers, the canna lily is a perfect dog-friendly alternative to hibiscus. It comes in a variety of colors too. Just don’t confuse canna lilies with calla lilies, which are poisonous to dogs. Once you’ve settled on a hibiscus alternative, read a touching story about the comfort that comes from caring for a loved one’s plants.
If your dog has ingested any of the above plants toxic to dogs, call your veterinarian or a pet poison hotline, like the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435), for guidance. If your pet is already showing physical symptoms, head to a veterinary clinic immediately. Not all cases are life-threatening, but it is always in your pet’s best interest to provide care and comfort.
Another thing to keep in mind: Our veterinary experts say it’s best that you don’t try to induce vomiting if your dog ingests a toxic substance. In some cases, the substance has already been digested and absorbed into the body.
- Christie Long, DVM, head of veterinary medicine at Modern Animal in West Hollywood, California
- Shelly Zacharias, DVM, veterinarian and vice president of medical affairs at Gallant
- Maria Botinas, DVM, veterinarian and medical director of IndeVets in Florida and Texas
- ASPCA: “Animal Poison Control”
- ASPCA: “Poisonous Plants”
Originally Published: November 23, 2022