It’s important to give as much consideration for the safety of our pets in the garden as we do when it comes to ‘baby-proofing’ our homes on the inside. Pets are after all our hairy children, and we want to protect them just the same. Dogs and cats especially love chewing on grasses and leaves and in many cases this is good for them. But did you know that many common plants found in Houston gardens are toxic to our pets? Through conscious gardening we can avoid putting our pets in danger. These five plants should be avoided if you happen to have a happy chewer at home.
Sago Palm – Seen all over Houston and prolific at reproducing, sago palms are very harmful to pets. A friend recently rushed his beloved pup to the emergency room without a clue as to what had poisoned him. The veterinarian went down a list of plants and sure enough, he had the sago palm in his yard. Sadly his dog didn’t make it through the night. Sago palms and dogs don’t mix. If you have them, remove them. The leaves and seeds can cause vomiting, bloody stools, damage to the stomach lining and in some cases, death.
Oleander – Oleander is an outdoor shrub, popular for its evergreen qualities and delicate flowers. However the leaves and flowers are extremely toxic if ingested. The plant can also cause severe vomiting, slow the heart rate of the animal down and possibly even cause death. I love oleanders for their fast growth rate and their ability to cover unsightly areas. In wanting to keep them in our backyard I have trimmed the bottom branches out of children and animals way. This has created smooth trunks with bushy tops and looks good aesthetically.
Tulips, Daffodils and Hyacinths – The toxic substance found in the tulip, daffodils and hyacinth plants is concentrated in the bulbs as opposed to the leaf or flower. If you’re a bulb lover, make sure your dog isn’t digging up bulbs in the garden. When the bulbs or plant parts are chewed or ingested, it can result in irritation to the tissues in the mouth and esophagus. Signs of poisoning include profuse drooling, vomiting or diarrhea depending on the amount consumed.
Azaleas – Houston prides itself on the blooming azalea season when bushes come alive in their pink and white glory. So it’s unfortunate that an animal eating just a few leaves can result in vomiting, diarrhea and excessive drooling. Without immediate veterinarian attention, the pet could fall into a coma and possibly die. If you suspect azalea poisoning, visit your vet ASAP. The azalea falls in the same family as the rhododendron, which is also harmful to pets if ingested.
Kalanchoe – A member of the succulent family, kalanchoes grow wonderfully well in Houston. But they are very toxic to cats. Cats that have ingested kalanchoes often develop gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. In rare cases, the cat can develop an abnormal heart rhythm after ingesting this plant.
In the world of gardening, there are thousands of species to choose from to build an incredible landscape while keeping your pets safe. Stay tuned for a follow-up article on what to plant for your pets which will include tasty grasses for them to chew on and herbs to add to their food.
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