With the advance of Spring and Summer, we want to spread beauty to our yards and gardens.
Bulbs, flowers, plants, fertilizers; all come out of the shed for their annual tour of duty.
I’ve addressed toxic fertilizers in a previous article.
Here is a list of some of the most common spring plants and their toxicities… so you
know how to pet-proof your garden and keep your pet safe!
Tulips and Hyacinth
Tulips contain allergenic lactones while hyacinths contain similar alkaloids. The
toxic principle of these plants is very concentrated in the bulbs (versus the leaf
or flower), so make sure your dog isn’t digging up the bulbs in the garden.
When the plant parts or bulbs are chewed or ingested, it can result in tissue irritation
to the mouth and esophagus.
Typical signs include profuse drooling, vomiting, or even diarrhea, depending on the amount
There’s no specific antidote, but with supportive care from the veterinarian (including rinsing the
mouth, anti-vomiting medication, and possibly subcutaneous fluids), animals do quite well.
With large ingestions of the bulb, more severe symptoms such as an increase in heart rate and
changes in respiration can be seen, and should be treated by a veterinarian. These more severe
signs are seen in cattle or our overzealous, chow-hound Labradors.
These flowers contain lycorine, an alkaloid with strong emetic properties (something that triggers
vomiting). Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal
pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression.
Crystals are found in the outer layer of the bulbs, similar to hyacinths, which cause severe tissue
irritation and secondary drooling. Daffodil ingestions can result in more severe symptoms so
if an exposure is witnessed or symptoms are seen, we recommend seeking veterinary care for further
There are dangerous and benign lilies out there, and it’s important to know the difference. Peace,
Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that cause minor signs, such as tissue irritation to
the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus – this results in minor drooling.
The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies, and these include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter
and Japanese Show lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats!
Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves) can result in severe kidney failure. If your cat is seen
consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat (and the plant) immediately to a veterinarian for medical
The sooner you bring in your cat, the better and more efficiently he/she can be treated.
Decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated
charcoal) are imperative in the early toxic stage, while aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, kidney function
monitoring tests, and supportive care can greatly improve the prognosis.
There are two Crocus plants: one that blooms in the spring (Crocus species) and the other in the autumn
(Colchicum autumnale). The spring plants are more common and are part of the Iridaceae family. These
ingestions can cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea.
These should not be mistaken for Autumn Crocus, part of the Liliaceae family, which contain colchicine.
The Autumn Crocus is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and
kidney damage, and respiratory failure.
If you’re not sure what plant it is, bring your pet to their veterinarian immediately for care. Signs may be
seen immediately but can be delayed for days.
Lily of the Valley
The Convallaria majalis plant contains cardiac glycosides which will cause symptoms similar to
digitalis (foxglove) ingestion. These symptomsinclude vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate,
severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures.
Pets with any known exposure to this plant should be examined and evaluated by a veterinarian and
I hope you find this information helpful especially those of you who have four legged garden helpers
who insist on lending you a hand.
For more in depth information on more plants that pose a hazard to your pets (dogs, cats, horses, etc.)
please visit the ASPCA.org.
In case of toxin exposure, keep a list of important phone numbers in a visible, easily accessible location. Be sure pet sitters and other people who might be in your home are aware of the location of the list. The following phone numbers should be included:
- Your primary veterinarian
- One or more nearby 24-hour veterinary emergency clinics
- ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435 ($50 fee)
- Animal Poison Hotline: 888-232-8870 ($35 fee)
- Pet Poison Hotline: 800-213-6680 ($35 fee)
- An emergency contact number for you and your dog’s co-owner (if applicable).