Is Hemlock Bark Bad for Dogs?

by Mary Helen Berg, Demand Media
    Poison hemlock becomes less toxic when dried.

    Poison hemlock becomes less toxic when dried.

    If your canine pal is an adventurous eater who loves the outdoors, it makes sense that you worry she'll nibble on something harmful. Familiarize yourself with common toxic plants so you can tell the difference between hemlock bark and poison hemlock, and help your friend stay out of trouble.

    Hemlock for the Garden

    Bark harvested from the long-living hemlock tree provides a nontoxic mulch for your garden and is generally safe for dogs, according to the ASPCA Poison Control Center. Cedar or pine chips are safe alternatives. Don't use cocoa mulch in your landscaping. If your pal is drawn to its sweet fragrance, the results may be dangerous to her health. Ingesting cocoa mulch can cause a number of symptoms ranging from slobbering to vomiting to seizures. Even hemlock bark will irritate your dog's system if she eats it in large quantities.

    Other Hemlock Bark Uses

    Hemlock bark has been used to treat scurvy, diahrrea, intestinal problems and throat and mouth diseases, according to WebMD. In the 19th century, leather manufacturers valued Hemlock bark valued for its tannins and used it to process leather goods.

    Hemlock to Avoid

    Poison Hemlock is a bushy plant that grows like a weed alongside roads, streams and pastures; it could be accessible to your dog wherever she roams. Also known as deadly hemlock, California fern or poison parsley, this lethal plant is easily mistaken for wild carrot. Purple spots on a smooth stalk will alert you that this isn't Bugs Bunny's favorite fare. Its lacy white flower is appealing, but poison hemlock has the power to paralyze. If your pet eats poison hemlock, you will see the effects within minutes. Her breathing will become labored, her eyes dilated and she may lose coordination before paralysis sets in. If your pet has eaten this plant, the area around her mouth may be tinted blue. Call your vet immediately if you suspect your dog may have ingested poison hemlock.

    The Good News

    If your pup has a sensitive nose or palate, chances are she won't like the smell or taste of hemlock and will steer clear of it. The musty odor and unpleasant taste make the plant an unlikely snack, according to Black's Veterinary Dictionary. If she does eat it, you may be able to smell the plant's distinct odor on her breath and in her urine.

    Be Informed

    You can't judge a plant by its beautiful flower or poetic name. Bird of Paradise, English Holly, Daffodil and Wisteria can make your dog seriously ill, according to the American Kennel Club. Common decorative landscape plants such as privet and fruit trees such as the apricot tree can prove toxic to your pet.

    About the Author

    Based in Los Angeles, Mary Helen Berg has been writing about pets, travel, families and parenting since 1989. Her work has appeared in publications such as "The Los Angeles Times" and "Newsweek." Berg holds a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images