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Plants and your pup

Plants and your pup
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Plants are having a real moment right now, and for good reason. They add beauty to your home, help you feel more in tune with nature, and they even boast health benefits. Unfortunately, some of the most popular and best indoor plants are toxic to dogs, who don’t know which ones are safe to munch on or play with and which absolutely aren’t.

With veterinary help, we’re calling out the most common indoor and outdoor poisonous plants for dogs so you can avoid or get rid of them and replace them with some pup-friendly options.

If you suspect that your pup has munched on a poisonous plant for dogs, consult your vet immediately.

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Aloe vera

Aloe vera
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Toxic components: saponins, anthraquinones

Because it’s so easy to maintain and boasts medicinal qualities, aloe vera is a common household plant that people keep both indoors and outdoors. Unfortunately, the gooey gel beloved for its soothing benefits also contains two components that make this plant toxic to dogs when consumed. Typically, signs of ingestion include lethargy and upset stomach, including vomiting and diarrhoea. If you bring this plant into your home, we recommend keeping it high up – like on a sink ledge – so it’s inaccessible.

Golden pothos (epipremnum aureum)

Golden pothos (epipremnum aureum)
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Toxic component: insoluble calcium oxalates

The winding, ivy-like golden pothos (“Devil’s Ivy”) is another poisonous plant for dogs that contains insoluble calcium oxalates – glass-like crystals that can cause severe irritation when eaten. One of the key symptoms is oral itching and irritation, which can sometimes lead to intense burning and pain in and around your pet’s mouth. It can also lead to excessive drooling, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing.

Milkweed (asclepias)

Milkweed (asclepias)
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Toxic components: cardiotoxins, neurotoxins

Though it’s a wonderful beacon for some of our favourite insects – including monarch butterflies and tussock moths – milkweed is one of those plants toxic to dogs. Some species contain cardiotoxins that affect a pet’s heart, while others contain neurotoxins that can affect organ function and mental state. As such, this plant should always be kept outdoors and/or out of reach from your dog.

When consumed, it can cause severe reactions, including depression, weakness and diarrhoea, followed by more intense reactions such as seizures, breathing difficulty, organ failure and death.

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Sago palm (cycas revoluta)

Sago palm (cycas revoluta)
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Toxic component: cycasin

The sago palm is leafy, beautiful and very easy to grow, which makes it a popular choice as an indoor plant. However, this plant’s toxic to dogs, so you should definitely keep it out of your house. “If consumed by your dog, the sago palm causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, as well as stumbling, tremors, seizures and temperature-regulation issues,” warns veterinarian Christie Long. “Ultimately, it causes liver failure, and death can occur with ingestion of an amount as small as a single seed.”

Azaleas (rhododendron)

Azaleas (rhododendron)
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Toxic component: grayantoxin

Azaleas are colourful and interesting to look at, so it’s easy to see why your dog might be attracted to them. Unfortunately, all parts of the azalea plant are poisonous to dogs, including the flower, leaves, seeds and even honey that’s made from the nectar.

“When azaleas are consumed by your dog, it can result in hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle weakness, vision problems, slow heart rate (bradycardia), heart arrhythmia and/or low blood pressure (hypotension), cardiovascular collapse, and possible death,” warns vet Shelly Zacharias.

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Tulips (tulipa)

Tulips (tulipa)
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Toxic components: tulipalin A and B

Tulips are one of the most popular plants come springtime, but they can cause big problems for curious canines. The flower and stem parts of the plant are toxic, but the bulbs are especially dangerous when consumed. Clinical signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhoea, hypersalivation, and even depression.

Garlic and onion (allium species)

Garlic and onion (allium species)
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Toxic component: n-propyl disulfide

Though it’s easy to assume that all vegetables and herbs found in the garden are perfectly OK for your pup, that’s not always true. The allium species – which includes garlic and onions – are poisonous plants for dogs.

“Any plant in the allium family, if ingested in large enough quantities, can cause a severe reaction in the bloodstream called hemolysis, in which red blood cells are destroyed in large numbers,” says Dr. Long. “The results are severe weakness, rapid breathing, and red-coloured urine.”

She adds that forced vomiting by a veterinarian is key here, and many dogs will require blood transfusions to replace the blood cells that are damaged in order to survive.

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Dumb cane (diffenbachia)

Dumb cane (diffenbachia)
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Toxic components: insoluble calcium oxalates, proteolytic enzyme

This stout, leafy tropical indoor low light houseplant may be pretty, but it should be kept out of reach of canines. “This plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are similar to microscopic pieces of glass resembling needles,” explains Dr Zacharias. “Chewing or ingesting it causes toxicity. Common symptoms are vomiting, swelling of the mouth and/or throat, severe oral pain, pawing at mouth or eyes, severe skin irritation, agitation, coughing, gagging and hypersalivation.”

Simply coming into contact with the plant can cause symptoms, as well. If your dog’s eyes and skin are exposed, flush immediately or give them a bath.

Elephant’s ear (alocasia)

Elephant’s ear (alocasia)
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Toxic component: insoluble calcium oxalates

Alocasia – also known as elephant’s ear – is a striking dark green plant commonly found indoors. Like dumb cane, it contains glass-like insoluble oxalate crystals that can cause severe irritation both internally and externally, notes the Pet Poison Hotline. If consumed, an immediate visit to your vet is recommended to monitor and treat symptoms. If your dog’s skin or eyes has become irritated by the plant, a bath and/or flushing the skin and eyes with water is recommended.

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Kind regards, Reader’s Digest Editors