Gardening Can Be Dangerous

The snow has left and your garden is calling your name. It’s that time of the year when plants, both indoors and out, begin to thrive. This is also the time of year when we start thinking about poisonous plants.

We get frequent calls about pets ingesting plants. The most frequent problem with pets and plants is the irritation to the intestinal tract and stomach. This irritation usually causes vomiting. Most pets don’t ingest enough of these plants to cause severe problems, but once in a while the pet (or child) will consume too much of a beautiful thing.

Here a few of the more common truly toxic houseplants:

Pink Oleander

– The toxic compound is a cardiac glycoside. This compound is toxic to the heart even in small amounts.


Kalanchoe - The toxic compound in this plant can be bufadiolones. This is the same compound that can be found in poisonous toads. The mechanism of action is very similar to Oleander (cardiac glycoside) and can be toxic to the heart. Unfortunately, we do not know which species of this plant contain the toxic compound so all of these plants are considered toxic.

Dumb Cane

Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia species)
– Contains a product mimicking topical anesthetics. These plants cause numbness in the mouth that can result in choking, and in larger amounts it can cause the heart to stop beating.


– Thorns cause puncture wounds resulting in abscesses and have been known to migrate into deeper structures like the chest and abdomen.


Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
– Contain a sap that is very irritating to the mucous membranes.



Pothos (Epipremnum species)
– Contain oxalic acids. These will crystallize in the kidney causing kidney failure just like antifreeze and rhubarb leaves. It is sometimes mistakenly labeled as a Philodendron in plant stores.


– Contain silica that will cut the mucous membranes of your pet (and those ground squirrels). This silica is in nearly every part of the plant.



Lilies - Toxin is presently unknown. There are many different types of toxic Lilies which include the Easter Lily, Tiger lily, Rubrum Lily, Japanese Show Lily, and some species of Day Lilies as well. These plants are especially toxic to cats and only a small amount of any part of these plants can cause kidney failure. So if you receive a Lily on the holidays, please keep it in a place your furry little loved ones cannot access.


For a more complete list of poisonous plants visit the following link: Animal Poison Control Center - Most common poisonous plants.

If your pet ingests poisonous plants, contact your veterinarian immediately. Frequently, you will be instructed to induce vomiting using hydrogen peroxide (1 teaspoon/ 10 pounds every 10 minutes for 30 minutes) or syrup of ipecac (1-2 teaspoons, repeat once if needed), The biggest problem is getting the product into your pet. Your veterinarian can use injections or narcotics administered in the mucous membranes to induce vomiting.

When purchasing new plants for your home and garden, remember to ask about potential toxicity. Make sure that you know both the Latin and common names, you may need both in order to make an appropriate assessment.

Happy Gardening!

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