How to - Gardening Basics

Protect your pets and plants from each other

Minimize health risks to pets by following all safety precautions in your garden.

Most gardeners know to minimize health risks to pets by following all safety precautions when applying fertilizers and pesticides, since animals will inevitably chew on the grass (and possibly your favourite dahlia). But a less obvious danger to your beloved companions is toxic plants. (Cats tend to be less adventurous about snacks than dogs, and puppies are more curious than adult dogs and are therefore the most likely to be poisoned.) The first hour after the toxin has been ingested is the best time for treatment. After that, much of the toxin has been absorbed by the digestive tract, although a visit to the vet can still save a life.

Common signs of poisoning include listlessness, increased drooling or frequent swallowing, stumbling or inability to rise, breathing difficulties, abnormal pulse rates, muscle tremors or convulsions, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Unfortunately, your pet may not show any symptons for hours or days after the plant has been ingested, and these symptoms can also indicate any number of other health problems.

If you suspect poisoning, collect the plant and identify it or have a local nursery do so. Unidentified plants should be collected whole, including the roots, and kept in a plastic bag. Try to estimate how much was ingested.

Contact a poison control centre or a veterinarian. They can tell you whether to induce vomiting, whether the amount ingested is likely to be harmful, whether your pet needs immediate medical attention and what symptoms to watch for.

Keep an emergency kit on hand: hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting, if advisable), a turkey baster or syringe (to administer emetic), canned pet food (which can buffer toxin in the stomach), dishwashing detergent (to remove toxin from face and paws) and rubber gloves. Know your pet's weight; it's important for figuring out the correct dosage of medicine.

Toxic plants

  • Yew (Taxus spp.)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis spp.)
  • Oleander (Nerium spp.)
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Castor bean seeds
  • (Ricinus communis)
  • Daffodil bulbs
  • Hyacinths
  • Tulips
  • Lilies
  • Ivy (Hedera spp.)
  • Hydrangea
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Begonias

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