Any conscientious dog owners will have made sure that their garden is clear of poisonous or dangerous plant life. However, when you’re walking in the great outdoors it’s near-impossible to avoid indigenous flowers, trees and shrubs that could cause harm. In spring and summer many trees, fruit and flowers are on display. Though dogs will avoid eating poisonous plant matter, it pays to be aware of the hazards of wild plants.
There are a number of ground-level flowers that are poisonous enough to, at the least, cause a stomach upset or skin irritation or, at worst, prove fatal. The most common ones you are likely to encounter are buttercups, snowdrops, crocuses and primroses. Your dog is unlikely to eat them on their own but they might accidentally snaffle them up while eating grass. If you see your dog eat any of these flowers you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
Various trees produce fruits, bark or leaves that are poisonous to dogs. Even apples can cause serious harm as the seed casings contain cyanide. Horse chestnut trees and their nuts (you might know them as ‘conkers’) are toxic, as are most cherries and other stone fruits. Do what you can to deter your dog from playing with or chewing these fruits or sticks from their trees. If your pet seems out of sorts after a walk where you have spotted any poisonous trees, speak to your vet.
The most common poisonous foliage you’re likely to find is bracken and ivy. These can both cause skin irritation and itching, and if they are ingested they can make your dog extremely unwell. Keep an eye on your dog around these plants and report any itching or sickness to your vet.
Pollen and spores
While pollen in itself is rarely poisonous, some dogs will find that they are sensitive to tree or plant pollens, similar to hay fever in humans. Dogs are less likely to suffer from respiratory irritation, instead they might experience itching of the skin, eyes and ears. Your vet may prescribe a cream or pill to counteract this.
Thorns and splinters
It’s not just poisons and allergens that you need to be wary of when you’re on a walk. Many plants have thorns which can get caught in your dog’s skin, stuck between the pads of their paws or even jammed in their tongue or gums. It’s difficult to prevent them from picking them up, but you can make sure to give them a thorough check when you get home, looking for any thorns or splinters in their body, on their legs or between their pads. Remove any that you find and give the area a wipe with pet-safe antiseptic.
It is unusual for plants to pose a life-threatening risk to your pets in the UK, but it’s not impossible. Dog owners will always do what they can to keep their animal friends safe from harm, and knowing what to look out for is the first step in staying safe.