Springtime Dangers for Dogs and Cats

Spring is coming and with it the joys of nature! This is the perfect time of year for sharpening your gardening skills, getting rid of pests and participating in Easter activities, all while keeping your pets safe!

Not everyone has a green thumb, but gardening can be a relaxing hobby to pursue. It’s always important to also consider the hazards to your pet when it comes to gardening. Some plants, when ingested by dogs and cats can be very poisonous:

  • Garlic, onions, chives, and leeks can cause destruction of the red blood cells and weakness.
  • Azaleas and rhododendrons may cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular and neurologic signs with large ingestions.
  • Lily of the Valley, Oleander, and Foxglove are toxic to the heart.

Keep your garden pet-friendly by ensuring pets cannot access areas containing toxic plants by using gates, fences or elevating the garden. Many of these plant toxins do not have an antidote, so immediate action must be taken if your dog or cat ingests them. Seek immediate veterinary care and contact Pet Poison Helpline to help with identifying the plant, assessing the risk and providing treatment guidance.

With Spring comes the challenge of keeping rodents away! There are many different products available to keep your house and outdoors vermin free. Unfortunately, these products can certainly cause a whole new spectrum of dangers to your beloved companions. Rodenticides are a common pesticide used by many households, they come in multiple formulations and are occasionally used in malicious poisonings. Anticoagulants, cholecalciferol (or Vitamin D3) and bromethalin are just some of the different active ingredients on the market. Each have significantly varied effects if ingested by your pet. Anticoagulants cause internal bleeding, cholecalciferol leads to kidney damage, and bromethalin causes swelling of the brain affecting the central nervous system (cats are extremely sensitive to this one). Unfortunately, the active ingredient in rodenticides cannot be determined without information from the original packaging, as many products appear similar in color, size, and shape. Therefore, it is imperative to contact Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian as soon as possible to help guide you in treatment recommendations. Always consider using pet-safe alternatives to chemical rodenticides to minimize the exposure risks.

We all know fleas, ticks and mosquitoes can be quite irritating, but insecticides are another health concern for dogs and cats. Insecticides may be over the counter or prescribed by a veterinarian, they can come in oral or topical formulations, and even environmental sprays. Be sure to pay attention to the label to determine which animal should receive the product. Cats, for example, are extremely sensitive to pyrethrin, a common active ingredient in dog flea and tick products. Effects can be rapid and include salivation, vomiting, seizures, and sudden death. If your cat is exposed to this active ingredient, seek immediate veterinary care and contact Pet Poison Helpline.

Lastly, the widely celebrated holiday of Spring, Easter! Celebrations often include chocolate, floral arrangements and family gatherings. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical found in varying concentrations depending on the type of chocolate. If ingested by dogs and cats, chocolate can increase heart rates, cause irregular heartbeats, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst. If your pet ingests chocolate, contact Pet Poison helpline to assist with evaluating the exposure risk.

Floral arrangements often contain Lilies from the Lilium sp. or Hemerocallis sp. such as the Oriental lily, stargazer lily, Asiatic lily, roselily, and daylily. Any exposure to the flower, pollen, or water can be poisonous for cats. Initial signs can include vomiting and excessive salivation which may progress to increased drinking and urination, or decreased urination, due to kidney failure. If left untreated, lily poisoning can be fatal and delayed treatment decreases the chance of survival. If your cat has been exposed to one of these lilies, seek immediate veterinary care and contact the Pet Poison Helpline for treatment guidance.


Written by Niurka Cubero Martinez, Pet Poison Helpline DVM student extern, Iowa State University, Class of 2024
Samantha Koch, CVT, Pet Poison Helpline Representative II