“April showers bring May flowers” never held much significance in my life until I moved to the Pacific Northwest. When the Rose City blooms, it does so in vibrant fashion. Delicate petals grace porches, parks and pedestrian crosswalks. Colorful tendrils of various types flow up mailbox posts, trees, and the occasional storefront trellis. Portland greenery brings out the inner gardener in all of us -- though personally, I’m more of the Venus Flytrap type, since my green thumb is frostbitten.
Flowers, though beautiful, are not created equally. Some common ornamental flowers can be poisonous to pets if ingested.
Fatal plant poisonings are rare. Many animals live harmoniously in areas or houses with poisonous plants because they choose not to ingest them. Predisposing factors for eating plants include boredom, young animals, colder seasons, and being indiscriminate eaters (that is, a history of eating other non-food items). While pets may nibble on greenery, they generally prefer grass over poisonous plants.
Depending on the plant ingested, clinical signs will vary. Lily-of-the-Valley, Oleander, azalea, laurel, and foxglove contain potent glycosides (chemicals which affect the heart), leading to coma and sudden death. Tiger lily causes acute kidney failure in cats. Bleeding heart and sago palm affect the central nervous system, causing hyperexcitability, paralysis, coma, or death. Aloe vera, English ivy, and the bulbs of tulips, daffodils, iris, and amaryllis cause irritation of the mucous membranes and gastrointestinal tract if ingested.
Plant ingestion is difficult to diagnose unless you witness the animal eating the plant or see the plant in its vomitus. Excessive salivation (drooling), vomiting, and diarrhea are the most common signs of poisonous plant ingestion. Many cases resolve themselves before the owner has the chance to take the pet to a veterinarian. Severe cases may result in death.
If you suspect or have watched your pet ingest a poisonous plant, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Treatment for these animals involves removing the plant contents from the stomach and supportive care. The sooner the treatment is attempted the better.
To prevent poisonous plant ingestion, remove plants from your house and keep a watchful eye on your pet where poisonous plants may be present. If you choose to keep poisonous plants in your home, make sure animals can’t gain access to them. Consider plastic or silk flowers for a safe but authentic look.
If all else fails, roses are always a classic win -- unless of course your pet likes thorns.
Veterinarian Dr. Jasmine Streeter’s column will appear in The Skanner the first Wednesday of every month. Send your pet care questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.