We get it. You love your pets, and you love your houseplants—they’re almost like pets themselves! In many cases, pets and plants can safely co-exist, but there are also a large number of well-known houseplants that are toxic to cats and dogs. This can be a dangerous issue if your beloved pup decides to make an afternoon snack out of indoor greenery.
The best defense is to make sure you don’t keep certain plants in your home at all. Below, we’ll talk about why plants can be toxic, review five poisonous specimens you should avoid, and talk about what you should do if your pet does happen to eat one of these or other harmful varieties.
What Makes Plants Toxic?
In the wild, most animals can easily hide or defend themselves from predators if needed. On the other hand, plants are stationary and can’t sneak into a hole if an herbivore comes along to make a meal out of them. Because of this, plants have evolved to have mechanisms such as thorns and chemical weapons that they can use to defend themselves.
Two examples are insoluble calcium oxalates and saponins. Plants with insoluble calcium oxalates contain tiny needle-like crystals that can become lodged in an animal’s mouth and causing vomiting, excessive salivation, and swelling. Plants with saponins have a bitter taste that is generally unpalatable to humans and animals and can cause gastric distress and other symptoms. Saponins are also present in quinoa but in quantities too small to likely cause any issues, especially with pre-rinsing.
5 Toxic Houseplants
Now that you know why some plants are toxic, we’ll run through several plants from the ASPCA’s database you’ve likely seen and may even own that are unfortunately toxic to cats and dogs.
Aloe Vera is a plant you likely know about because of its sunburn-relieving qualities. It’s characterized by an often non-existent stem and chunky, tapered leaves. If your pet ingests aloe, they may become lethargic, start vomiting, or have bouts of diarrhea.
Also known as Swiss Cheese Plant, Cutleaf Philodendron, with its striking, tropical-looking foliage, is one of the trendier plants you’ve likely seen on your Instagram feed. It’s also known as “Monstera Deliciosa.” Signs of Cutleaf Philodendron poisoning in your pet can include mouth irritations, hypersalivation, and swallowing problems.
Dieffenbachia, also known as Giant Dumb Cane, Exotica, or Tropic Snow, may be easy to grow, but it’s also dangerous for your cat or dog. If your pet gets into this plant, it may exhibit similar signs to Cutleaf Philodendron poisoning. The sap of this plant is also an irritant, and you should take care to clean your hands thoroughly if you encounter it.
Gold Dust Dracaena
Gold Dust Dracaena, aka Florida Beauty, lives up to both its names with an attractive variegated pattern across the leaves. Cats that ingest this plant may exhibit a faster heart rate or indicate pain in the abdominal area. Dogs and cats exposed may lose their appetite, experience vomiting, or seem weak, among other symptoms.
Golden Birds Nest
You might know Golden Birds Nest plant by another name, such as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant, but chances are you’d recognize the upright, multi-colored leaves of this plant if you saw it. While it has air-purifying qualities, it also can induce vomiting and other gastrointestinal issues in cats and dogs.
What to Do If Your Dog or Dog Eats a Toxic Plant
It happens. Your pets show absolutely no interest in your plants—until they do. If you catch your pet eating a toxic plant or any plant that you don’t know 100% isn’t harmful, remove them from the area and call your vet. If you don’t see your pet tampering with your plants but have reason to expect that they have been, you should do the same thing. Your vet will be able to guide you through the right next steps whether your pet is exhibiting symptoms or seems fine.
Taking these precautions and avoiding having these plants in your house can head off many tragic accidents and keep your pet safe and healthy for years to come.