Good Natured Gardening: Plants your pets should not eat

Ever wonder why little Fifi…Fofo…Fumfum, or whatever you call your pooch, comes into the house and barfs all over your prized Persian rug?

Possible causes: car sickness, an infection, food allergies or poisoning, heatstroke, or plant poisoning.

It’s interesting what some animals can eat and not be affected. Camels eat thorny cacti, seabirds eat ocean plastic (source: National, rats eat car electrical wires, and, of course, rhinos eat Volkswagens.

“In general, dogs are affected more than cats, in part because they eat pretty much anything, while cats are somewhat protected because they’re pickier eaters”, according to researchers at the University of Milan.

Eating the wrong foods can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, profuse drooling, rapid breathing, and seizures in pets; in extreme cases, even death. Of course, it depends on how much is consumed.

Before you offer your furry family member a sample from your dinner plate, make sure you’re not sharing food that can cause a serious health issue.

“Several foods that are perfectly suitable for human consumption can be toxic to dogs and cats”, according to researchers in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

“Sometimes, owners unknowingly give these harmful foods to their dogs and cats, but many times, pets accidentally ingest these foods.” The researchers found that “…reported cases of pet poisoning have involved chocolate and chocolate-based products, plant foods in the Allium genus (including onions, garlic, leeks, and chives), macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, foods sweetened with xylitol ( eg, sugar-free chewing gum), ethanol in alcoholic beverages, and unbaked bread dough.” (Raw dough creates alcohol in the stomach.)

However, not all pets have the same reaction to these foods, according to the journal.

Even with the use of a jackhammer, macadamia nuts are tough to crack. It’s not clear how much of these nuts can cause health problems. Our dog Chief frequently found these nuts on the ground and would quite easily chomp them open. He suffered no apparent side effects. He also ate gophers. He lived to be 200 years old.

Apple, crab apple, apricot and plum trees are also toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Dogs can eat apples but remove the toxic seeds and core first.

Cherry seeds contain cyanide and are toxic to dogs. Also, the pit in peaches and pears contains cyanide; completely cut around the pit first.

While the ripened fruit of the tomato plant is considered safe for dogs, the green parts of the plant contain a toxic substance called solanine (Pet Poison Hotline). However, the pooch family would need to eat a large amount of the tomato plant to make it sick.

Sago palms contain a toxin that can cause liver failure. All parts are poisonous, especially the seeds.

Ingesting just two seeds can result in diarrhea, seizures, and liver failure.

Azaleas and rhododendrons contain toxins that can produce vomiting and cardiovascular collapse.

All parts of oleander are toxic and can cause drooling, diarrhea and abnormal heart function.

Castor beans contain ricin, a highly potent toxin.

Chrysanthemums, which contain pyrethrin, and kalanchoe may cause gastrointestinal problems and loss of coordination.

Also, according to the Pet Poison Hotline, asparagus ferns can cause skin irritation if your pet brushes against them. Eating the berries can cause gastrointestinal issues.

The leaves, pits, and skin of avocados all contain the toxin, persin.

Citrus fruits contain high levels of citric acid. While lemons, limes, and oranges are safe for humans, they are very toxic for canines and felines.

Some herbs that are toxic to cats and dogs include borage, chamomile, lavender, mint and oregano.

Other plants that may poison your pets according to include bird of paradise, carnation, clematis, cyclamen, daisy, eucalyptus, foxglove, gardenia, hemlock, hosta, hydrangea, lobelia, milkweed, nightshade, peony, periwinkle, primrose, rhubarb , tobacco tree, vinca, wisteria, and yucca.

Some toxic holiday plants are Christmas Cactus, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias.

Common houseplants that can cause pet problems are aloe, cactus, caladium, English ivy, jade, philodendron, pothos, snake plant, begonia, dieffenbachia, dracaena, geranium, rubber plant, and lantana.

Almost all plants that grow from bulbs or corms are poisonous for your pet. These include amaryllis, bluebells, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, irises, and tulips.

For cats, the entire lily plant is toxic: the stem, leaves, flowers, pollen, and even the water in a vase, according to the FDA.

To protect your pets, choose your plants carefully. Place them out of their reach. Pick up any fallen leaves or petals around your plants. Consider cat and dog-repellent products. provides an extensive and printable list of toxic and non-toxic plants for pets.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, contact your veterinarian immediately or call the ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Your Persian rug can be replaced. Your pet can’t.

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