Spring is just around the corner! Plant bulbs are just as excited to break through the ground to add some color to our yards, as we are to see some greenery! That said, we need to be aware of the potential dangers spring plants can be to our pets. 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 is not 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 consumed. There is no specific antidote, but
with supportive care from the veterinarian (including rinsing the mouth, antivomiting medication, and possibly subcutaneous fluids), animals do quite well. With
large ingestion 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,
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 supportive care.
There are dangerous and benign lilies out there, and it is 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 – these result 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 the pollen or 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 care. The sooner you bring in
your cat, the better and more effectively we can treat the poisoning.
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.
As we gardeners work on our rose garden, be aware of those fertilizers. While most are not very toxic
(resulting in minor gastrointestinal irritation when consumed), some fertilizers can be fatal without
treatment. Here are a few ingredients to be aware of so you know what toxins and symptoms to watch
• Blood meal – This is dried, ground, and flash-frozen blood and contains 12% nitrogen. While it’s
a great organic fertilizer, if ingested, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. More importantly, it can
result in severe pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. Some types of blood meal
are also fortified with iron, resulting in iron toxicity, so make sure to know what is in your bag of
• Bone Meal – This is made up of defatted, dried, and flash-frozen animal bones that are ground to
a powder. This “bone” is also what makes it so palatable to your dog so make sure to keep your
pet from digging in it and ingesting the soil. While this also makes a great organic fertilizer, it can
become a problem when consumed in large amounts as the bone meal forms a large cement-like
bowling ball foreign body in the stomach – which can cause an obstruction in the gastrointestinal
tract – resulting in possible surgery to remove it!
• Rose and plant fertilizers – Some of these fertilizers contain disulfoton or other types of
organophosphates (OP). As little as one teaspoon of 1% disulfoton can kill a 55 lb dog, so be
careful! Organophosphates, while less commonly used, can result in severe symptoms [including
SLUD signs (which abbreviate for salivation, lacrimation, urination, and defecation), seizures,
difficulty breathing, hyperthermia, etc. In some cases, it can be fatal!
• Pesticides/Insecticides – Most pesticides or insecticides (typically those that come in a spray
can) are basic irritants to the pet and are usually not a huge concern unless a pet’s symptoms
become persistent. Some may contain an organophosphate which can be life threatening when
consumed in large quantities. It is always best to speak to a trained medical professional if there
are any questions.
• Iron – This is commonly added to fertilizers, and can result in iron toxicity (from ingestion of
elemental iron). This is different from “total” iron ingestion, and can be confusing to differentiate.
When in doubt, have a medical professional at Pet Poison Helpline assist you with finding out if
the amount ingested was toxic or not. Large ingestion can result in vomiting, bloody diarrhea,
and potential cardiac and liver effects.
The best thing any pet owner can do is to be educated on the household toxins (both inside the house
and out in the garden!), that way you make sure how to pet-proof your house appropriately. Make sure to
keep all gardening and lawn products in labeled, tightly sealed containers out of your pet’s reach. If you
think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 with
any questions or concerns.
Resources: Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) is an Animal Poison Control that provides treatment advice and
recommendations relating to exposures to potential dangerous plants, products, medications, and
substances, to veterinarians, veterinary staff and pet owners 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please be
aware there is a $39.00/per case consultation fee. Pet Poison Helpline is located in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. The Helpline number is 800-213-6680.
For further information regarding services, visit the PPH website at www.petpoisonhelpline.com