Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garden Hazards for Pets

There's something wonderful about watching your pet frolic outside in warm weather, but beware. Some common plants and gardening products can be hazardous, even fatal, to a dog or cat.

According to veterinarian Ahna Brutlag of the Pet Poison Helpline, springtime calls to the 24/7 telephone center are frequent from pet owners in a panic. Calls, which are taken by veterinary and toxicology experts, are $39 per incident, including follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case.

"Many of the calls we receive this time of year involve pet ingestion of yard and garden products that may have harmful chemicals or ingredients," Brutlag said. "Additional yard-related emergencies involve pets that have dug into and ingested the contents of compost piles or consumed various plants and flowers that can be poisonous."

Such plants and products include:
Crocuses that bloom in spring generally causes gastrointestinal upset while the fall crocus is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding and multisystem organ failure with bone marrow suppression.

Lilies such as peace, Peruvian and Calla only cause minor symptoms when ingested, while tiger, Asiatic, Easter, Japanese show and daylily varieties are highly toxic to cats. A very small ingestion of the latter petals, leaves or pollen can result in severe kidney failure.

Lily of the valley - An early springtime favorite, contains cardiac glycosides and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias and possibly seizures.

Cocoa bean mulch - Made from discarded hulls of the cocoa bean, a tempting treat to dogs. Unfortunately, the mulch contains theobromine and caffeine, two toxins that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and, in extreme cases, death.

Compost - As organic matter decomposes, tremorgenic mycotoxins are released from mold spores. When consumed by an animal, symptoms such as agitation, panting, drooling, vomiting, tremors and seizures can result within 30 minutes.

Fertilizers, soil additives and pesticides - Avoid products that contain blood meal, bonemeal and feather meal, which can form a concretion in the stomach and ultimately obstruct the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe pancreatitis.

Iron is another ingredient to avoid, as it can cause iron poisoning. Pesticides and additives containing organophosphates should not be used around pets; it can be fatal in even small amounts.

Slug and snail bait - An active ingredient called metaldehyde, found in most forms of slug and snail bait, is highly poisonous and can cause excess salivation, restlessness, vomiting, tremors, seizures and life-threateningly high body temperatures within one to two hours of ingestion. Symptoms can last for several days and can be fatal.

"People need to remember that some drugs, such as aspirin or heart medication, contain ingredients that come from plants. When the plant is ingested, you can see similar signs as when the drug is ingested," said veterinarian Evelyn Vega, owner of Happy Pets Veterinary Clinic in Valencia.

While Vega tends to see more holiday-related plant ingestions, such as poinsettias at Christmas, rather than those that happen outdoors, she suggested all scenarios be treated promptly and seriously.

"If an owner suspects their pet has been poisoned, it's crucial to bring the pet into the vet office and to find out the name of the plant so we can look it up and determine the best treatment," Vega said. "Symptoms can vary depending on the plant. Most plants can cause gastrointestinal upset with vomiting or diarrhea."
Preventing plant and garden-related ingestions is pretty simple, as Vega illustrated.

"Keep such plants and products out of reach, or don't have them at all," she said. "If you're concerned about what plants are already on your property, go to a local nursery and do some research."

Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com. Pet Poison Helpline's new iPhone application contains an extensive database of plants, chemicals, food and drugs that are poisonous to pets and also has a direct dial feature to the Pet Poison Helpline in case of emergency. The app, called Pet Poison Help, costs $0.99 and is available on iTunes.

Article originally posted on AVMA Health Brief.


  1. Good info. In our area a dog died after eating mushrooms. I almost planted Lily of the Valley, then thought to look it up. It's very poisonous to pets.

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