Downeast Dog News

Poisonous Plants in the Garden

By Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH | May 31, 2019

Q. On Mother’s Day, I received a lovely bouquet from my children. My cat knocked it over and Bosco grabbed the flowers and ran around the house. Once everything was cleaned up, I wondered if any of the flowers were poisonous. It turned out that many of the blooms were toxic, especially to cats. Luckily, Bosco didn’t eat them. Now I am wondering about my gardens. Are there any garden plants I need to have concern?

A. There are many common garden plants, vines, shrubs, and trees that are toxic to our pets, and children. Here I will list some of the most common plants. The list is very long, and if you have concerns, do your research before you buy.

Let’s begin with cold-hardy perennials. Here we have foxglove, mums, Lenten rose (also known as Christmas rose), lily-of-the-valley, bleeding hearts, iris, monkshood, and yarrow.

Common vines to watch out for are English ivy, morning glory, wisteria, clematis, bittersweet, and Boston ivy.

A few of the annuals of concern are lantana, amaryllis, calla lily, coleus, and begonia.

We all have shrubs. Here are some to watch out for in your garden: rose of sharon, yew bushes, mountain laurel, hydrangea, burning bush, azalea genus, boxwood, daphne, and andromeda.

Common trees that may be of concern are apple, oleander, American holly, and oak trees.

We all love spring bulbs, but some may not like our dogs, such as: hyacinths, tulips, lilies, allium, and daffodils.

Most yards in Maine have weeds. Some weeds to watch out for are: yellow dock, bittersweet, nightshade, creeping Charlie, mayapple, baneberry, bloodroot, and jack-in-the-pulpit.

The majority of symptoms you will see when your pup eats a poisonous plant are digestive symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Other possible symptoms are related to the heart and respiration, central and peripheral nervous system, kidneys, liver, muscles, and the eyes.

If you see any of these symptoms and a chewed up plant, take your dog to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. It is best if you bring the name of the plant, if you have it, or a piece of the plant for identification.

A good resource for toxic and non-toxic plants is the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website.

Most dogs will grab leaves and twigs to play with them. They will chew sticks, rip up leaves, and play chase. Generally dogs won’t ingest these plants. Animals innately know what is poisonous or not. Sometimes it is the taste or smell that is noxious that keep dogs away. Puppies are the biggest concern since they learn about life through their mouths.

Make sure your puppy is under supervision when out in the garden. If you know or suspect your pup ingests a plant, call your veterinarian or animal poison control (888-426-4435). Have the name of the plant when you call.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, ME 04330