Updated: Apr 9, 2022
At times, fresh blossoms appeal not only to you, but to your furry loved ones too. Beware ─ certain plants can be toxic to felines and canines. Keep them away from your pets, or simply do not make them available in your house:
The entire lily plant is toxic to cats. Just by licking a few pollen grains off its fur while grooming, the cat is at risk of a fatal kidney failure. Although lilies are usually not fatal to dogs, their toxicity may upset the gastrointestinal system or lead to depression.
Carnation poisoning in cats and dogs is a toxicity caused by the ingestion of the stem, leaves or petals of the carnation plant. Carnations are generally mildly toxic, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
Begonias, especially their roots, contain soluble calcium oxalates. Intakes of these oxalates by both cats and dogs may cause hypersalivation, dysphagia (i.e. difficulty in swallowing) and vomiting.
Tulips contain Tulipalin A and Tulipalin B toxins that pose health risks to cats and dogs. The bulb contains the highest concentration of toxins but nibbling on any part of the tulip plant can cause hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures, and heart arrhythmias.
Chrysanthemums are considered a mild to moderately toxic plant for pets. Depending on how much your cat or dog eats, symptoms associated with ingestion can consist of hypersalivation, diarrhea, vomiting and dermatitis.
The small, deciduous species are referred to as azaleas and the large, woody shrubs rhododendrons. Both the petals and leaves of the plant contain grayanotoxins which disrupt the skeletal and cardiac muscle. When ingested, clinical signs include gastrointestinal signs (e.g. hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.), cardiovascular (e.g. heart arrhythmias, hypotension, etc.), and central nervous system signs (e.g. transient blindness, seizures, coma, etc.)
Hydrangeas contain a natural phytotoxin called cyanogenic glycoside. Cyanide intoxication produces a gastrointestinal disturbance in cats and dogs, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
This fragrant plant is common in households because of its decadent smell. However, eucalyptus, dried or fresh, should be kept away from cats and dogs. The toxicity of fresh eucalyptus stems from its essential oil, eucalyptol. When ingested, the essential oil compounds that cannot be metabolized accumulate into toxins in the body. Clinical signs include hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression and fatigue.
Like calla lilies and coleuses, the entire plant of alocasias is toxic to cats and dogs. Alocasia plants contain insoluble oxalate crystals. Chewing or biting into the plant will release these crystals causing irritation in the throat, hypersalivation, vomiting, numb lips and in severe (though rare) cases, swelling of the upper airway which lead to shortness of breath.
Poinsettias (a.k.a. the Christmas plant)
The plant’s brightly coloured leaves contain a milky sap that is irritating to the tissues of the mouth, oesophagus, and skin of cats and dogs. When ingested, there might be mild signs of hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea. If the milky sap is exposed to skin, dermal irritation (e.g. redness, swelling, and itchiness) may develop.
Toxic lectins and glycosides are present in the seeds and seedpods of the wisteria plant. Toxic to cats, dogs and even humans, ingestion of just one or two seeds may already lead to clinical signs of vomiting (occasionally with blood), diarrhea and depression.
Gypsophila (a.k.a. Baby’s Breath)
Baby’s breath is a common addition in flower arrangements. Although only mildly toxic to cats and dogs, ingestion may still upset the gastrointestinal system, causing hypersalivation, vomiting and diarrhea.
Kalanchoes are also known as the flower of longevity. However, they contain bufadienolides which are toxic to cats and dogs. Ingestion may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and heart arrhythmias.
The leaves, stems and bulbs of the amaryllis contain phenanthridine alkaloids which, when ingested by cats and dogs, may cause vomiting, respiratory depression, and hypotension.
Like tulips, hyacinths come from the Liliaceae family and contain allergenic lactones or similar alkaloids. The bulbs of hyacinths, when ingested by cats and dogs, may lead to clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea (occasionally with blood), depression, and tremors.
For your quick reference, there is a list of toxic and non-toxic plants available at the website of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants
Seek professional advice from your vet where the circumstance requires.