Written by FOTP Team
Did you know that common plants such as Azalea, Bay, Holly and Carnation can cause an extreme physical reaction if your dog ingests them? Before you hit the plant store, check our guide to household plants that are unsuitable for dogs.
Dogs often go into the yard to chew on the grass. That’s totally normal – and will aid your dog’s digestion. But if they start to explore some of your other plants, there could be disastrous results.
From a stomach upset to full poisoning with tremors and seizures, the symptoms can be mild or very severe. Many plants can cause problems if ingested by your dog. In this article, we will outline some of the more common plants so that you can take a cautious approach to your garden planning.
Please note that eating any foliage from your yard could give your dog a bad stomach. If they start vomiting, call your vet for advice – if you don’t know what they ate, the vet will probably ask you to monitor your dog closely in case their symptoms change. If you need to take your dog to the vet, snip a sample of the plant for analysis.
Don’t panic. Many of us have garden plants which are dangerous to dogs – and many of our dogs have not eaten them, or even shown interest in eating them. Dogs have evolved a sophisticated sense of taste and they wouldn’t have come this far if they went around eating poisonous plants every day.
At Christmas, be aware that household favorites like holly, bay and amaryllis come high on the list – use them for table arrangements or weave into a fireplace wreath, but be sure to place them away from canine teeth.
Here’s a run-down of the common plants that are poisonous or toxic to dogs... see if you find any surprises here!
If you do have any of these plants in your garden, there’s a chance that your dog will never show an interest in them. But if you do have a curious dog, you could consider moving some plants to different parts of the garden – or giving them away to friends and family.
Azalea. It’s a beauty when it blooms. The azalea is popular around the world, putting on a spectacular display in late spring – with masses of bright and often candy-coloured flowers. It’s from the Rhododendron family and contains grayanotoxin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea through to cardiac failure in dogs (and cats).
Aloe Vera. Known for its medicinal properties, Aloe Vera leaves contain a gel which can soothe human skin conditions. But if your dog munches on them, they can experience vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea. Keep Aloe Vera out of your dog’s reach – it’s a good house-plant to keep on a high windowsill.
Apple and Apricot. These fruit trees contain cyanide in the leaves and stems, which is intensified as the plant wilts. If your dog eats foliage from an apple or apricot tree – or apricot kernels – they can suffer some alarming symptoms including difficulty breathing and even shock.
Yew tree. The American or Canadian Yew contains highly toxic components. It often carries attractive berries but beware the Yew tree: eating from this plant has been known to cause seizures and heart failure in dogs.
Japonica (Pieris Japonica). This is a common garden plant – it has broad, shiny leaves which are topped with “flaming” red foliage, developing creamy bell-shaped flowers in spring. Although it is very beautiful in the garden (and beloved by bees), this shrub is toxic if eaten by dogs, causing gastrointestinal upset and sometimes heart failure.
Arum Lily. This plant family contains calcium oxalates which cause irritation to the mouth, accompanied by pain and vomiting. You might notice your dog drooling or having difficulty swallowing if they have eaten from an Arum plant.
Bay Tree. The widely-loved Laurel produces leaves which can be used in human cooking – containing an oil called eugenol. But dogs can suffer from vomiting and stomach upset if they eat the leaves from the tree.
Begonia. There are hundreds of types of Begonia – a plant which is very popular in flower beds, providing bright splashes of reliable color above lush mounds of glossy leaves. But this plant is among the most toxic plants for a dog, especially if they manage to dig up the tubers. If eaten, Begonia can cause vomiting and even kidney failure.
Deadly Nightshade. It’s more commonly seen in nature, because the Black or Deadly Nightshade forms clusters of glossy berries – which can look tasty. But this plant is genuinely deadly. If your dog eats nightshade, they could suffer from loss of appetite and diarrhea, but symptoms can be even worse – watch carefully for confusion, dilated pupils and a low heart rate.
Borage or Starflower. This common garden plant is sometimes picked for culinary uses. But it can cause skin irritation or stomach upset for your dog.
Boxwood. It’s an old favorite for borders and edging: boxwood is often trimmed into neat shapes. But this garden favorite will cause gastrointestinal upset if eaten by your dog.
Buttercup. It’s actually from the Ranunculus family, and buttercups are undeniably lovely – sprinkling our common areas with bright yellow blooms. They contain Protoanemonin, which can irritate your dog’s mouth (causing ulcers) as well as stomach (causing sickness).
Carnation and Sweet William (Dianthus). All plants in this family contain an irritant which can affect your dog’s skin, mouth and stomach. They’re abundant in flowers and also very bright and appealing, so consider planting them in part of your garden where your dog doesn’t wander.
Cardinal Flower. Also known as Lobelia Cardinalis, this charming garden perennial reaches a height of up to 1m and grows spikes of bright flowers. It’s dangerous for dogs though – if they take a liking to this shrub, they can suffer vomiting and diarrhea plus very severe abdominal pain. In the worst case scenario, it can affect their heart too.
Cherry. A cherry tree is a real asset to the garden. Unfortunately, if your dog eats leaves, stems or fruit from the cherry tree, they will ingest cyanide, which causes serious symptoms such as panting and shock.
Hellebore. If eaten, the leaves of the Christmas Rose can cause abdominal pain and vomiting. It can also cause further symptoms such as depression.
Daffodil. The national flower of Wales makes a cheery appearance in spring – and while the whole plant is toxic, it’s the bulbs which are the worst for your dog. Daffodil leaves grow straight and narrow like grass and can be mistakenly eaten. Ingesting any part of the daffodil can cause vomiting, convulsions and even heart failure.
Caladium (such as Elephant Ears). It’s a popular garden shrub in different forms, but Caladium can cause quite painful irritation around the mouth and throat. If your dog ingests it, they’ll probably have difficulty swallowing and may be drooling and vomiting.
Holly (American and English). It’s a festive favorite and creates such a joyful contrast – but make sure only birds eat the berries. Holly contains saponins which can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Of course, it’s an unpalatable shrub to chew, and many dogs will ignore it.
Perennial Sweet Pea. This is a fairly modern introduction to our gardens but it’s sadly a plant to avoid if you have dogs. Chewing on any part of it can be dangerous for dogs; eating the plant or pods can cause symptoms such as lethargy, seizures and even death.
Foxgloves. This cottage-garden classic bears stately spikes of flowers in pink, purple or white; it’s also very toxic to dogs. Eating Foxglove can cause vomiting and diarrhea and even heart failure or death.
Garlic (plus Onion and Leek). Although your dog has to eat quite a bit of garlic to experience symptoms, this plant can cause a severe reaction. Ingesting garlic, onion or leek can lead to haemolytic anemia, causing blood in the urine and a high heart rate.
Gladioli. Another popular garden choice – the gladioli has been cultivated in many forms over the past few decades. It’s the bulb which is most toxic for dogs, so keep them well-buried (or remove them if you have a digger). Eating gladioli can cause lethargy and vomiting as well as diarrhea.
Ammi Majus. Widely recommended to add height and airy interest to your garden, the Ammi is dangerous if ingested by dogs. It’s an irritant, causing mouth pain and swelling, which you’ll see in excess drool and difficulty swallowing.
Horse Chestnut. (Conker.) All parts of this tree are toxic for dogs, as they contain saponins. Symptoms range from vomiting and diarrhea to convulsions and coma.
Hosta. Like the Horse Chestnut, the Hosta plants contain saponins, which cause gastrointestinal upset as well as symptoms like depression and lethargy. There are various types of Hosta, which is a clumping perennial with broad, glossy leaves.
Lavender. While its essential oil is often recommended as a relaxant, the concentration of linalool and linalyl acetate in the fresh plant can cause problems for dogs. Symptoms range from loss of appetite to nausea and vomiting.
Lemon and Lemongrass. These contain those lemony essential oils which we love – but are toxic for dogs, causing severe stomach upset.
Lily of the Valley. A beautiful perennial which grows well in shaded or wooded areas, Lily of the Valley masks an extremely toxic recipe. Poisonous to children as well as dogs, it contains glycosides which can affect cardiac function, causing low blood pressure, seizures and even coma.
Mint. It’s a favorite garden herb – try floating it in a mojito – but Mint can upset dogs’ digestive system if eaten in large amounts.
Oregano. See above – like mint, it’s grown for its culinary flavor, but Oregano is sadly toxic for our dogs. They’d have to eat a lot but can get gastrointestinal problems from this soft green leaf.
Nicotiana. The clue is in the name. This plant contains nicotine, which is very dangerous for dogs to eat. If your dog eats this plant, they might display hyperactivity followed by lethargy, leading on to vomiting then (in rare cases) paralysis and even death.
Peony. The Peony is an uplifting sight – but if your dog decides to chomp it, look for depression, lethargy, and vomiting. Keep this garden classic at the back of the border where your dog won’t be tempted to taste it.
Rhubarb (Pie Plant). It’s delicious in pie! And some people remember chewing on raw sticks of rhubarb when they were young. But eating a large amount can cause your dog stomach pain at best, and kidney failure in the worst cases.
Plum. Your own plum tree is a real treat. But keep your dog away from the fruit (or leaves). Plum trees contain cyanogenic glycosides, which – if ingested – can cause panting, dilated pupils and shock.
Sago Palm (Cardboard Palm). This tropical beauty can cause an extreme reaction for your dog. Ingesting it may lead to increased thirst and vomiting, then liver failure and death.
Tulip. Another plant whose concentration of toxins lies in the bulb. Tulip bulbs are extremely serious for your dog – if chewed, they can cause depression or vomiting and diarrhea.
Yarrow (Achillea). It’s a charming plant with tall, airy clusters of flowers – keep your dog well clear. We’re sorry to say that yarrow can cause skin, mouth and stomach irritation – watch out for signs of increased urination and call the vet if you think your dog’s been eating yarrow.
Wisteria. It’s an old-fashioned favorite and it’s difficult to see why a dog would want to reach up and chomp on the purple blooms of Wisteria – but this plant contains glycosides which can cause quite severe compulsive vomiting, which might also contain blood.