Plants that are poisonous to your pets, you must stay away!
Our four-legged companions love the outdoors, as much, or even more than we do. And although plants and flowers add a touch of color and fragrance to our daily lives, some of them can be dangerous to our pets. Most of us think pesticides and some household substances can be poisonous to pets but do we rarely consider that common indoor and outdoor plants and fruit and vegetable parts can be equally, or even more toxic. In fact, there are over 700 plants identified as poisonous which means they produce physiologically active or toxic substances in sufficient amounts to cause harmful effects in animals. Certain animal species may have a weird vulnerability to a potentially poisonous plant. Because of the dogs’ bad eating and chewing habits, they are much more commonly poisoned than cats.
Vulnerability to plant toxicities depends on pet species, amount ingested and the size of your pet. In cats and small dogs, even a small amount of a toxic plant may be lethal. Just brushing up against some toxic plants may be dangerous, as the sap that is on the pet’s fur may be licked off while the pet is grooming itself. What is more, wild plants that are irritating to our skin have the same effect when they come into contact with a pet’s skin.
The surface chemicals of nettles, poison ivy and poison oak, often cause inflammation to the skin of the abdomen, especially in dogs/cats with short coats or little protective downy hair. The inflammation can be manifested with skin redness and blisters.
In hot, humid, grain-growing regions a toxin called aflatoxin can grow in contaminated grain and can sometimes be consumed by curious pets. Aflatoxin from moldy grain causes a loss of appetite, weight loss and often fatal liver damage. Always assume that all moldy grain is potentially toxic.
Take care when walking your pet in crop fields that have recently been sprayed with herbicides. While the plants themselves may not be toxic, the sprayed chemicals are always dangerous. Other chemicals that are applied to many garden plants, such as fertilizers, can also pose a hazard to dogs and cats. Keep all such chemicals locked away when you are not using them. Whenever you are using them, never leave the containers unsupervised and put them away as soon as you are finished. Keep your dog/cat away from all plants that have just been treated with chemicals, including areas of lawn, for at least 24 hours.
A list of more common poisonous plants is given in the chart and table below (source: DVM Bruce Fogle (2002) Caring for your dog: The complete canine home reference, DK Publishing, Inc.)
If there are any of these plants in your garden or in other areas where you exercise your pet, keep the pet away from them. If possible, make sure that the plants are out of reach, for example by fencing them off and safely disposing of plant materials. In addition, keep your pet away from other poisonous plant matter in your gardens, such as all fungi and bulbs.
The effects of the poisonous plants can range from mild nausea to death.
Most just cause an upset stomach if the dog/cat comes in contact with them or swallows plant material, but certain species are deadly. The most common plant poisoning symptoms include excessive salivation, repeated vomiting, diarrhea, refusal to eat, pale gums, swollen or cut tongue, abdominal pain, abnormal urine, rapid breathing, racing or irregular pulse, cold extremities and convulsions.
If you suspect that your pet has ingested any toxic plant, contact your veterinarian, emergency animal clinic or poison control center immediately. Ask if it is okay to induce vomiting and if the professional on the phone approves, do so. You can easily induce vomiting by giving your pet about one tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide per 15 pounds of body weight.
For the average cat or toy breed dog, use one half to one tablespoon, for medium-sized dogs the dosage is four tablespoons, while large dogs can be dosed with five to six tablespoons. As soon as you have induced vomiting, rush your pet to the vet. If possible bring a sample of the plant your pet digested. Identifying the plant will be beneficial for better adjustment of the therapy. It would also be helpful if you know how much your pet ingested.
Luckily, it is easy to minimize the risk of poisoning by keeping poisonous plants safely out of a pet’s reach and not leaving bored, active and curious pets alone with them. A good way of preventing plant poisoning in dogs is by adding bran flakes to its food or switching its diet to one higher in vegetable fibers to deter cravings for vegetation. In cats, you can accomplish the same goal by adding wheatgrass to the diet.
As a rough guide, until proven otherwise assume that any plant with a white sap is poisonous.
In the end, as pet parents, it is our responsibility to protect our furry babies from harmful experiences including plant poisoning. The best way to protect them is through education.
All in all, it is important that we know which plants are toxic, how to prevent a poisoning, how to recognize the symptoms of plant poisoning in pets and what to do in cases of emergency.
Good luck everyone, it's always smart to keep us as pet parents educated and well-informed for our little ones who aren't able to... speak up. If you have any other tips or want to share your experiences, comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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