March is Pet Poison Prevention Month, and I happen to have a pertinent story to share. I was playing in my nana’s backyard when I came across some mushy yellow things. They smelled sour but looked good enough to eat, so I gave one a try—and then another. Before I could munch one more, however, my mom grabbed me and started freaking out, as she usually does when I’m doing something I probably shouldn’t be doing. She asked my nana what those things were, but nana didn’t know. I’m pretty sure they fell from a nearby tree. My mom, being my mom, picked up a few of them, put me in the car, and drove to a garden store for further investigation. She showed the resident gardener what I was eating and asked if he knew what were. She was scared that I would get sick, but he told her not to worry; they were only loquats—a type of kumquat—and they wouldn’t hurt me (as long as I didn’t choke on the pits). Whew, nothing harmful.
There are plenty of ways to keep your pets safe from toxic plants. It all starts with knowing some of the more common threats sprouting out of the ground or living in your flower pots at home.
Sago palms are extremely poisonous to dogs when ingested, causing bloody vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding disorders, liver failure and death. This small palm is often kept as a houseplant, making it more likely that your dog’s curiosity will get the best of it.
Lilies are extremely toxic for cats and can cause acute kidney failure. All parts of the plant are dangerous: petals, leaves, stem and pollen. A small amount of any of these can be fatal to kitties.
Daffodils can be lethal. Don’t be fooled by their sunny dispositions—ingesting the bulb, plant or flower of these plants may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, abdomen issues, cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory troubles in pets.
Azaleas are extremely dangerous. Munching just a few leaves can cause vomiting, diarrhea and unusual drooling. If you believe your pet has consumed azalea leaves, take them to the vet right away. Delayed treatment could result in a coma or even death.
Tulips can be harmful, particularly the bulb. Noshing on this plant can cause dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain and, rarely, convulsions and death.
Aloe vera is a common houseplant that, when ingested, can lead to increased mucus production in the gastrointestinal tract, which leads to gastrointestinal dysfunction.
It’s nearly impossible to keep pets from getting into everything that could cause them harm, but you can take some steps to help ensure that poisonous plants are out of reach. Fortunately, most pets naturally avoid most of these dangerous plants, but should you ever suspect that your pet has ingested something toxic, whether from the garden or in the wild, seek the guidance of your veterinarian immediately.
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, contact Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 for initial information. This emergency service is operated by licensed veterinarians and toxicologists 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These are not free calls, however; have a credit card handy.