The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Poison Control Center states that rhododendrons are toxic to dogs. Keep your pooch safe and healthy by restricting access to rhododendron plants in the garden, or supervising your dog closely during garden playtime.
All parts of a rhododendron bush—the leaves, stems and blooms—are toxic to dogs. Only a small amount of rhododendron is needed to cause health problems if your dog eats part of the plant. Small dogs will typically experience more severe toxic effects than large dogs eating the same amount of rhododendron.
The toxic chemical in rhododendrons is grayantoxin. This neurotoxin affects the body's nerve cells. Horses and cats, like dogs, are susceptible to the poisonous effects of grayantoxin.
If your dog eats part of a rhododendron plant, symptoms will usually start to be noticeable between one and three hours later. The most common symptoms of rhododendron poisoning in a dog include gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, loss of appetite, excess saliva, general weakness, weakened pulse, paralysis of the legs and depression. Your dog may exhibit other symptoms too. Following these initial symptoms, more serious effects may appear—these include significant diarrhea, vomiting and low blood pressure. Symptoms may progress until a dog's cardiovascular and central nervous systems shut down—coma and death may follow.
If your dog shows any signs of rhododendron poisoning, seeking immediate veterinary help could be lifesaving. Call a vet or take your dog to a veterinary clinic immediately. Your veterinarian may administer medications that can help alleviate toxic effects of the rhododendrons. Life support may also be an option to help your pet stay alive.
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.
- ASPCA: Rhodedendron
- Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats; Alexander Campbell, Michael Chapman
Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.