You may not think much of letting your dog or cat out to roam around the yard, but there is good reason to think twice about it. Many outdoor plants are highly toxic to pets when ingested, so it is important to know every single herbaceous denizen of your yard.
Fruit enthusiasts may be frustrated to learn that their pets and trees aren't a match made in heaven. Cherry and apple trees are commonplace in many regions of the United States, and they are highly toxic to both dogs and cats. Toxins aren't limited to the fruit, so leaves and stems are also a risk factor for the puppies and kitties who don't mind occasionally munching on leafy greens. Apricots, holly, American yew and avocado trees are off limits as well. There are dozens of toxic trees in North America, so be sure to figure out the identity of every woody plant in or near the yard. Fruit can travel a fair distance from trees and can end up on your pet's turf after falling from a neighbor's tree.
Even though most pet-owners don't love fruit enough to grow their own trees, there's a good chance that they have at least a few flowering plants in their yard. Of course you wouldn't normally let your pet romp around a freshly-planted flower garden, but there's a good chance he will if given the opportunity. This is extremely dangerous. Some of the most deadly outdoor plants include beautiful flowers like lilies, foxglove, daphne and angel's trumpet. Other popular toxic ornamentals include tulips, daffodil, chrysanthemum and members of the anemone family. You will be glad to know that some flowers aren't toxic to both dogs and cats, so you will have a few more options when planning your garden if you don't own both.
Other Garden Plants
The sago palm does not bear fruit like many toxic trees, but it is very dangerous nonetheless. Ingesting parts of this plant can make your pet extremely ill. The plant's toxins can cause organ failure, internal bleeding and even death, so don't hesitate to contact your vet or an animal poison control center if you suspect he munched on one of these warm-weather palms. Despite its various applications in medicines for humans, the aloe vera plant is also highly toxic to pets. Tobacco and hemlock plants are also very poisonous to animals, but pets rarely attempt to ingest them, according to University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Safety and Prevention
While most plants won't put your pet's life in danger even if they are labeled as toxic, it is a good idea to remove any and all potentially dangerous plants from your yard. After all, a few hours of vomiting and diarrhea is no fun for anyone. Browse an online toxic plant database, like the one supplied by the ASPCA, to learn the identifying traits of common toxic plants in your area. You can also consult a vet for local information. If there are too many plants to identify, or if they cannot be removed for some reason, then you should keep your pet confined to a safe portion of the yard. Keep him away from gardens, it's in your plants' best interest too, and pick up fallen fruit from nearby trees regularly.
Symptoms and Treatment
Every toxin is different, so your cat or dog won't necessarily display a particular symptom to show he has ingested toxic plant material. However, sudden strange behavior, including dizziness or confusion, or unusual lethargy are simple indicators of plant toxicity. Lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of digestive distress are also common. If your pet begins to act strangely, especially after coming in from the yard, or if you suspect he was in contact with a toxic plant, then you should call your vet or a poison control center immediately. Note that some poison control centers charge for counseling. Prompt treatment is the key to dealing with ingested toxins. While you may be tempted to panic, the most important thing you can do is keep your head and get your dog help as soon as possible. If your pet is showing serious symptoms or is unconscious, call your local animal hospital and take your pet there immediately.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.