You may wonder if dogs and cats will instinctively know to avoid eating harmful plants, and the answer to this is… sometimes. While wild canines and felines may detect poisonous plants through smell and taste (or at least detect certain toxic compounds within plants), domestic dogs and cats often don't possess that ability or have limited functions in detecting toxins. Most pets will learn to avoid toxic plants after they go through a bad experience when they are puppies and kittens. If they eat a plant and experience nausea afterwards, they may form an aversion to that specific plant (or even plants generally). The best advice is to train your pet to ignore plants and don't leave them unattended around your plant collection until you identify and research each plant.
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Why Do Pets Eat Plants?
There are many reasons your pet could be nibbling on some greenery, from enjoying the sweet taste of spring grasses to simply being a curious pup or kitten exploring the world with their mouths and noses. Common grass is perfectly safe and even healthy for their digestion (assuming there's no fertilizer or insecticides). Providing your pets with plenty of exercise, raw bones, enrichment toys and puzzles are some great ways to divert their attention away from your plant babies. If eating plants is a sudden new habit for your adult pet, as a precaution we always recommend consulting a vet when your dog or cat experiences any change in their normal behaviour. Here's a quick summary of why your pet could be interested in munching on your house plants…
For added nutrients or Fiber (Ensure your pet eats a few servings of raw veggies with their meals each week)
Upset stomach or abdominal discomfort (Perhaps eating plants to induce vomiting)
Primal instincts (Dogs are omnivores)
Toxic Plants to Dogs and Cats
While an abundance of plant and flower species exist; thankfully, only a few are known to be highly toxic to dogs and cats. The following plants are by no means an exhaustive list of plants that are toxic for pets; it’s recommended that you research each plant before purchasing so that you don’t accidently buy some that can cause serious damage to your pets. However, according to the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List, some of the most common toxic plants that you should avoid adding to your indoor or outdoor plant collections include:
If your dog or cat ingests any of the above, call the APCC at (855) 764-7661 or contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible. The Pet Poison Helpline is a 24-hour animal poison control service available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance with treating a potentially poisoned pet. (Note: A $65 USD per incident fee applies when calling the APCC)
Symptoms of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats
If you suspect your pet has sampled a mild to moderately toxic plant, observe their behaviour for 24 hours for any of the following signs or symptoms. We recommend contacting your vet right away if you notice any signs of illness or if you are sure that your pet has consumed a highly toxic plant such as a Sago Palm. Avoid administering any at-home remedies such as hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, unless directed to do so by your vet. It is also important to note that different plants may present different symptoms:
Salivating / foaming at the mouth
Vomiting or nausea
Lethargy / weakness
Breathing difficulties - rapid or laboured
Loss of appetite
Increased heart rate
Twitching or seizures
What to Do if Your Dog or Cat Has Been Poisoned
APCC Emergency Instructions recommend to ‘Immediately remove your pet from the area, and make sure no other pets (or kids!) are exposed to this area. Safely remove any remaining poisonous material from their reach.
Check to make sure your pet is breathing normally and acting fine otherwise.
Collect a sample of the material, along with the packaging, vial, or container, and save it – you will need all that information when you talk to your veterinarian or to a Pet Poison Helpline expert.
Do NOT give your dog any milk, food, salt, oil, or any other home remedies! Also, never inducing vomiting without talking to your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline – it may actually be detrimental or contraindicated to induce vomiting!
Don’t give hydrogen peroxide to your pet without checking with a vet or with the Pet Poison Helpline first. For you cat lovers, hydrogen peroxide doesn’t work well to induce vomiting (it just causes massive foaming and salivating instead!), and stronger veterinary prescription medications are necessary to get your cat to vomit up the poison kitty ingested!
Get help. Program your veterinarian phone number, along with an ER vet and Pet Poison Helpline’s phone number (855-764-7661) in your cell phone so you will always have immediate access to help.’
Pet Friendly House Plants
Having no plants in your home at all is certainly the best way to prevent poisoning in pets, but as plant lovers ourselves we know that the happiness, beauty and air purifying qualities that plants bring into our homes far outweighs the risks. Instead, you can keep your pets safe by selecting pet friendly house plants that you may want to substitute for the above more dangerous plants. Alternatively if you can’t part ways with your precious Pothos, we recommend placing toxic plants well out of your pets' reach; most smaller plants can be kept in hanging baskets or on higher shelving.
While our list of the following pet friendly houseplants are approved by the ASPCA as being non-toxic to your pet, if eaten frequently that doesn’t mean that they won’t potentially cause digestive upset. It’s always best to monitor your dog or cat's behaviour around any new plants you introduce into your home.