31st March 2015
The sight of new spring flowers is welcome after the dreary winter. It is wonderful to walk past their bobbing heads as you take your dog for a walk, and to see vibrant new life in your garden, but you need to exercise caution where pets are concerned. Many flowers blooming at this time of year can be dangerous for dogs and cats to ingest, sometimes with deadly results. Here is a guide to some of the plants and bulbs your pet should avoid in spring, whether inside or outside your home.
The pretty flowers may be nice to look at but they belong to the Liliaceae family, which is notoriously poisonous to cats. The unassuming flower can be toxic if the bulb is eaten, with just 15g being enough to kill a dog. The heads and leaves of the flower can also be dangerous when consumed. Mild symptoms to look out for are diarrhoea, vomiting, salivation and lethargy, whilst extreme symptoms include convulsions, low blood pressure, dehydration, tremors and cardiac arrhythmia. It can take between fifteen minutes and twenty four hours for these reactions to manifest. Due to their high risk, it is probably best not to plant daffodils in the garden as pets could dig up the bulbs and eat them.
Many lilies are extremely poisonous to cats, including the Easter lily, lily of the valley, tiger lily and other members of the Liliaceae family. All parts of the plant can prove deadly when ingested by cats, even if they lick any pollen off their fur. Lilies affect the kidneys and cause kidney failure if not treated in time. Initial signs include vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy, which become worse as the toxin further takes effect. Help needs to be immediate to ensure the best chance of survival.
Lilies are also extremely dangerous for dogs to ingest. Side effects can include depression and gastrointestinal upset, anorexia and even tumours.
Another member of the Liliaceae family, the toxins present within the tulip bulb, tulipalin A and tulipalin B, can be toxic for dogs, cats and horses when consumed. Your pet may vomit, have diarrhoea, lose their appetite and experience a rapid heart rate. Seizures and difficulty breathing are just some of the extreme reactions, but there are more.
All parts of the bluebell pose a risk to dogs, and can even be deadly in large amounts. The function of the heart can be affected, depending on the amount consumed. Diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal problems are also possible side effects.
Ivy can be extremely irritating for animals that come into contact with it. Skin reactions such as itching and conjunctivitis are two examples of conditions that can develop as a result. Another side effect is dribbling, and there may also be blood present in faeces and vomit.
The spring crocus is not to be confused with the autumn crocus, which is part of the Liliaceae family and contains the toxic colchicine. The spring crocus is part of the Iridaceae family, and like its autumn relative, can still be severely toxic for pets. Symptoms include diarrhoea, perhaps with blood, drooling and vomiting. Extreme cases can cause numerous problems including seizures and organ damage, or even death.
A popular garden plant, every part of the rhododendron is toxic. Diarrhoea, vomiting, weakness and drooling are just some of the milder symptoms of contact. Severe reactions can include depression of the central nervous system, cardiovascular collapse and even death.
Pesticides, insecticides and herbicides
Be aware when using any pesticides or herbicides in your garden, as these can also be dangerous for your pets to come into contact with. Weed killer, slug repellent, even cocoa shell mulches are all hazards, so look for safer alternatives to use. In a household with pets, natural methods of repellent may be best rather than resorting to using chemicals.
Bear in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of plants, and there are many others with that can cause varying degrees of harm to your pets. Before buying any new spring flowers, thoroughly research whether what you want is safe for your pet to be around. There are many other plants including Easter orchids, violets, begonia and the sunflower that shouldn’t affect your pet. You can still have a garden that is full of colour and life without using potentially harmful plants and flowers.
What to do
If your pet does ingest any of the toxic plants in the list above, or any others that you are unsure about, consult your vet immediately. Even if you didn’t see them eat the plant but they are behaving unusually, or you did see them but there are no side effects, you must act quickly. Delaying could be the difference between the life and death of your pet.