By Dr Vinod Sharma
New Delhi, July 8 : A pet is a companion but it’s also a huge responsibility. Pet owners should never take this responsibility lightly and should be cautious about the environment they give their most precious family member.
Sometimes unknowingly we forget to pet-proof our homes and this can be hazardous to your furry friend’s health. Plants, for example, might seem harmless but they can prove to be dangerous for your pets. Indoor plants, plants in your garden, or even a bouquet of flowers – some of these could pose a serious threat to the pets in the house.
Dr. Vinod Sharma, Head of Veterinary Services at DCC Animal Hospital, shared the list of plants that should be avoided at home if you are having pets:
Amaryllis has bright lily-like flowers and fascinating leaves; amaryllis is a stunning flower that can add the wow factor to any room during winter.
But this beautiful flower is also extremely harmful to your pets. In fact, it is toxic to all animals, not just dogs or cats. The bulbs, leaves, and stem of this plant contain phenanthridine alkaloids, which causes an adverse reaction in your pets. If an animal ingests any part of amaryllis, it could vomit or salivate excessively. Large amounts could cause diarrhoea and shaking. Other symptoms include a sore stomach and a drop in blood pressure.
Daffodils are another gorgeous plant that pose danger to your pet. If you have a pet rabbit, it could nibble on it and be fine. But, if you have a bird, cat, or dog – they may be at risk.
The reason why Daffodils are dangerous is that the plant contains an alkaloid called lycorine. There are some other toxins called glycosides also present in all parts of the plant and in concentrated quantities in the bulb. This could be especially bad for the dogs who have a penchant for digging up the garden beds.
Daffodil poisoning in pets causes severe diarrhoea, tremors, drooling, and vomiting. Cats and birds sometimes experience seizures. In birds, it could even be fatal if ingested in excessive amounts. Cats can also experience heart arrhythmia and breathing trouble.
Dogs, in milder cases, may just experience the ‘daffodil itch’, a reaction caused by coming into contact with the plant’s sap. Although dogs recover in a few days it’s important to monitor the symptoms.
Lilies are a beautiful plan but they should be kept away from pets. All kinds of lilies have a bad effect on pets, especially birds and cats. Everything about the plant is toxic to animals, even the water inside the vase.
Depending on the type of lily ingested, the effects can be varied. Cats, dogs, and birds experience irritation in the mouth and the digestive tract. If you see your pet pawing at its face and the lips are swollen you may need to check what they nibbled on. They could also be nauseous and vomiting.
But there are some lily types that are far more dangerous and can be avoided completely, especially by cat owners. Easter lilies and Tiger lilies could be fatal for your cat as any part of these plants could cause a sudden kidney failure.
Morning glory is a great addition to gardens. The vine looks exquisite with its vibrant colors. But they are an absolute no-no for cats, dogs, and birds. There is a chemical present in this plant called lysergic alkaloids. It can cause a severe reaction in pets like vomiting, tremors, dilated pupils, and even liver failure in some cases. Another animal that should be kept away from morning glory is a horse.
The lysergic alkaloids are most concentrated in the plant’s seeds and are eerily similar to the chemicals found in LSD. If a bird or cat or even dog munch on these seeds they could experience hallucinations, causing confusion and lethargy.
Poinsettia plants may not be as toxic as the others listed here but they can still cause mild irritation in certain pets.
Cats and dogs may experience mild vomiting and drool after ingesting the plant’s sap. This milky sap has chemicals, diterpenoid EU phorbol esters, that cause these adverse effects. If your cat or dog gets this sap on its skin, it could become inflamed and itchy. Severe poinsettia poisoning is rare in cats and dogs, but birds are affected more severely.
Azaleas belong to the Rhododendron family and all plants from this gene pool are toxic to pets. They are bitter in taste and that usually discourages the pets from munching on them excessively and thus lessens the effects considerably. But if you have horses or any livestock this flower could be trouble.
Unfortunately, all parts of this plant are poisonous. It contains a toxin called grayanotoxins which are toxic to animals as well as humans. Azalea poisoning symptoms include excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhoea. If they’re unphased by the bitterness of azaleas, their symptoms could be a lot worse. Watch out for tremors, seizures and a loss of appetite.
Chrysanthemums are toxic to cats, dogs, rabbits and many other animals. The leaves and stems of this plant contain pyrethrin which cause vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling and sometimes a loss in appetite if ingested.
Hydrangeas are one of the most common garden plants. The vivid colors are super attractive and enliven any space almost immediately. But sadly, these beautiful plants are not safe for pets.
While the plant is not particularly dangerous to some pets like cats and dogs, smaller pets could be at a greater risk. The smaller animals could become severely ill if they nibble on the plant. Hydrangeas contain cyanogenic glycoside, which causes vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty breathing for several pets.
Cats could experience seizures and stiffness and might become depressed and dogs could lose their appetite, become fatigued and may even experience a fever. Smaller pets like birds or rabbits also experience similar symptoms but because they are smaller in size it could become severe. So, grow hydrangeas if you want but make sure you don’t snack on them.
Tulips are one of the most dangerous flowers for pets to ingest. Tulips’ toxins – lactones and alkaloids are concentrated in the bulb. If your pet has ingested any part of the plant, especially the flower, you will see a variety of symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and excessive drooling.
If you have a dog you might see seizures, tremors, dizziness, and in some cases, it could be fatal too. Tulip poisoning can cause death in birds, rabbits, and other smaller pets too. Horses may experience different symptoms, including colic, increased heart rate, and even jaundice. It’s safe to say that tulips need to be avoided at all costs if you have a pet at home.
Marigolds are a favourite in Indian homes. They are in fact part of all celebrations. But, they are not so good for feline friends.
If your cat nibbles on the leaves of a marigold plant, it may get a sore stomach and an irritated mouth. It may also experience drooling and diarrhoea. Marigold sap will also irritate your cat’s skin. Dogs are comparatively safer around marigolds but the sap might irritate their skin too.
It is always good to arm yourself with the right knowledge about which plants could cause harm to your pets. Some plants have a milder reaction and some may be extremely dangerous. It is pertinent that you make an informed decision and if you suspect that your pet has ingested a harmful plant, you must seek medical help right away.
(Dr. Vinod Sharma, Head of Veterinary Services at DCC Animal Hospital)