November 10, 2009

While many plants, herbs and botanicals can be valuable tools in a holistic approach to managing health, others are terribly toxic to our animal companions.

Here are just a few of the many plants that are poisonous to cats and dogs. This list is adapted from the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center materials. For a more extensive list, click here.

Lilies: These popular flowers are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that even ingesting a very small amount of the plant, can cause severe kidney damage.

Tulip / Narcissus bulbs: These bulbs contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

Azalea / Rhododendron: Members of this plant family contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.

Oleander: All parts of this attractive shrub are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects, including gastrointestinal irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.

Cyclamen: Cyclamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, cyclamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.

Sago Palm: All parts are poisonous, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.

Kalanchoe: This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.

Yew: This tree contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, in-coordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

What To Do If Your Pet Is Poisoned
  • Don’t panic but try to think clearly and work quickly.
  • If you know what has poisoned your pet, take a moment to gather a sample along with any package labeling. Be sure to take the product container with you to your vet. Also, collect in any chewed or vomited material in a zip-lock bag.
  • If you witness your pet consuming material that you suspect might be toxic, do not hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any adverse effects. Sometimes, even if poisoned, an animal may appear normal for several hours or for days after the incident.
  • Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435. There is a $55 consultation fee for this service.

The following information will be required when you call:

  • the species, breed, age, sex, weight and number of animals involved
  • the animal’s symptoms
  • information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount of the agent involved and the time elapsed since the time of exposure.

If your animal is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and bring your pet immediately to your local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic. If necessary, he or she may call the APCC.

Always consult a veterinarian or the APCC for directions on how and when to use any emergency first-aid item.