This Plant or That Plant?

Which ones aren’t what they’re “hyped” up to be?
Part One

By Candi Amundson, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist

There are thousands of plants all around the world and many are well known to be safe for consumption and on the other side of the coin there are others that are deadly poisonous. Calls to Pet Poison Helpline regarding an exposure or potential exposure to plants can make up almost 50% or more of the total call volume on a given day (every day will vary). To make a list of all the toxic plants would take a long time and there are entire books written on this topic. Simply there is not a yes/no answer most of the time. Some plants can be toxic to only certain species or even just certain parts of the plant are toxic. Here’s a list of just a few plants that are commonly “hyped-up” to be more dangerous that they actually are:

ALOE VERA:

(SYMPTOMS: VOMITING, DIARRHEA, DEPRESSION, ANOREXIA, CHANGE IN URINE COLOR)

This plant is not anticipated to cause a systemic toxicity. There are two liquids inside the leaves, the gel and the white sap. The white sap is the component that causes the symptoms to develop as they contain glycosides (especially in young leaves).

Strange Fact: something in the plant can cause color changes in urine and be mistaken for blood (Hematuria).

AVOCADO:

(SYMPOTOMS: VOMITING, DIARRHEA, FOREIGN BODY OBSTRUCTION, PANCREATITIS)

Despite all the rumors about these, avocados are not toxic to cats or dogs. They can cause risks when ingested due to the high fat content. Some animals could develop pancreatitis or even an obstruction if the large pit is ingested whole.

IMPORTANT: AVOCADOS CONTAIN PERSIN WHICH IS HIGHLY TOXIC TO BIRDS! Signs include: Inability to perch, difficulty breathing, and organ failure/death. CATTLE CAN ALSO BE AFFECTED.

APPLES/CHERRIES/CHOKECHERRIES/PLUM/APPRICOT/PEACHES

(SYMPTOMS: VOMITING, DIARRHEA, FOREIGN BODY OBSTRUCTION)

These plants do contain cyanogenic glycosides (Cyanide) in the bark, leaves and seeds (pits). The concentration of cyanide varies. In dogs, it is rare to see toxicity because they usually swallow the seeds whole and the cyanide is not released. Large ingestions of pits/and or fruit can cause a foreign body obstruction.

Quick Fact: Once signs develop, death will occur within 1 hour. If your pet is alive after 1 hour it is likely that he/she will only have mild symptoms develop (at most).

PERUVIAN LILIES

(SYMPTOMS: VOMITING, DIARRHEA, MILD STOMACH UPSET)

These plants are part of the Alstromeria Sp. (Common name Peruvian Lily) and are NOT the same as the Lilium Sp. Or Hemerocallis Sp. (Tiger lily, Day Lily, Asiatic Lily, Easter Lily, Stargazer Lily). These plants are commonly mistaken for deadly and causing renal (kidney) failure in cats. This species will only cause mild stomach upset when ingested by both dogs and cats.

Fun Fact: The Alstromeria Flower is the flower of friendship, wealth, prosperity, and fortune.

If your pet has been exposed to a plant:

  • Stay calm and remove the pet from the area. Try to decontaminate immediately (rinse the mouth, bathe the animal).
  • Contact Pet Poison Helpline or your Veterinarian for further recommendations. Do not induce emesis or provide any treatments/medications to your pet until instructed.
  • If the animal has symptoms already, immediately locate the closest Veterinary Hospital and bring your animal in for assessment. Bring samples of the plant or take pictures for identification purposes. Place samples in a baggy and if a mushroom, label the baggy, “DO NOT EAT.” Call Pet Poison Helpline at #800-231-6680.