Posted 7 months ago ago
With spring around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about getting the garden in order. But many beautiful and common plants in the average UK garden can prove fatal if eaten by your curious pooch. Rachel Mainwaring checks out the most dangerous plants that could be lurking in your garden and what you should do if your dog eats them
1. Azalea (Ericaceae, Rhododendron, grayanotoxin)
With a palette of colours that looks to be stolen straight out of a rainbow, the flowers of azaleas are bright, big and beautiful. And your dog will think so too. But don’t let him spend too long admiring them or he might decide they look tasty too.
Visible signs that a dog has ingested some part of an azalea plant includes excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficulty walking, appearing lethargic, tremors or seizures, loss of appetite and coma.
2. Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
Keep a lookout for these if you are walking in woods or forests as they are particularly lethal if ingested. Although very pretty, all parts of the castor oil plant are lethal to dogs and humans, and even the tiniest amount, such as a single seed, can kill.
3. Daffodils and most spring bulbs
How can there be any negatives to this beautiful yellow flower? It’s the national flower for Wales after all. However, daffodil and other narcissus bulbs are toxic to dogs and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. They can be fatal.
Believe it or not, dogs may be poisoned by the most common spring flower bulbs in our gardens: daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. These cases occur either in the autumn, when the bulbs are lying about for planting, or in the spring, when they are lifted after flowering.
Big, greedy breeds like labradors, retrievers, poodle crosses and springer spaniels are the worst as they seem to think that bulbs are for eating but a bellyful can be fatal.
4. Elephant ears (Bergenia)
Elephant ears bring to mind lush, tropical forests, adding drama to both gardens and containers. Eating the leaves or flowers of elephants’ ears can cause burning, irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat. If your dog’s tongue swells enough to block its air passage it could die.
5. Jessamines (Cestrum)
Willow-leaved jessamine is a semi-evergreen shrub with willow-like, dark green leaves and fragrant, jasmine-like yellow blooms in summer.
Eating the berries and sap of jessamines can cause digestive problems, including vomiting and diarrhoea, affecting the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. Can be fatal.
8. Jimson weed (Datura)
It’s a beautiful, witchy plant that begins blooming in late summer and continues through the first frost.
Eating any part of the plant can cause extreme thirst, distorted vision, delirium, incoherence, coma and death to your dog.
9. Larkspur, Delphinium (young plants and seeds)
Larkspur is a classic cottage garden staple and, with its airy stalks of blue blossoms, produces great cut flowers.
But keep the dog away from it. Eating young larkspur plants and seeds can cause digestive problems including vomiting and diarrhoea, nervousness, depression and can be fatal to dogs.
These shrubs are large and very showy, in almost every possible colour imaginable including some unusual shades of blue. Several varieties of lupines are toxic to animals and cause discomfort to humans when ingested. The poison is present in the foliage, but mostly it's in the seeds.
11. Monkshood (Aconitum)
This is widely planted in herbaceous borders, where it offers tall, spike-like racemes of deep-blue flowers; its wild cousin, wolfsbane, is sometimes cultivated.
Both are very toxic and share the ability to cause poisoning by contact of the plant juices with the skin of gardeners or their pets. Human fatalities from such contact are not unknown and both dogs and cats are known to have succumbed to the alkaloid aconitine present throughout the plant.
This is a pretty drought-tolerant Mediterranean evergreen shrub bearing pink, white and red blossoms. It is appearing more commonly in garden centres and retail outlets where it is frost tolerant to just below freezing.
Don’t be tempted to plant it in your garden as it’s a killer. Eating any part of oleander can cause heart problems, severe digestive problems, dermatitis and sometimes death to dogs.
13. Prunus species
Apricots, nectarines, damsons, cherries, plumbs, peaches and cherry laurel all belong to the Prunus family and if little Fido chews or swallows the seeds or stones of these fruits, it can cause toxic effects.
The stones of these fruits contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can be broken down by enzymes to produce hydrogen cyanide. Effects may appear very quickly, or may be delayed and can include frothing at the mouth, large pupils, breathing difficulties and sudden death. Stones swallowed whole are less likely to cause severe effects, but may still cause a stomach upset or an obstruction. Keep away doggies!
Although they sound like they should be edible, sweet pea plants are not food. As a matter of fact, they contain the toxic chemical called aminoproprionitrile, which causes musculoskeletal and central nervous system problems as well as muscle weakness, paralysis, and it can even be lethal.
15. Yew (Taxus baccata)
Eating yew berries and foliage (but particularly the foliage) can cause dizziness, a dry mouth, abdominal cramps, salivation and vomiting. Can be fatal to dogs and death can come without any prior symptoms.
What to do if you suspect your dog has eaten a toxic plant
If plant poisoning is suspected when a pet falls suddenly sick, seek veterinary advice immediately – and be certain to take along a specimen of the plant that has been eaten.
It is, of course, better to be on guard in the garden. Don’t leave clippings lying about to wilt, and clear up fallen berries – the fruits of laburnum, mistletoe, privet, cherry laurel and wisteria are all potentially poisonous.
This is not an exhaustive list. For a complete list of plants that have varying levels of toxicity to dogs, see the Dogs Trust factsheet.