Most dogs love the outdoors. After all, what better place to stretch those legs, smell the roses (and other less-than-rosy things) or enjoy a satisfying romp in the park. While we tend to keep a close eye on our dogs when we’re out and about together, the backyard is often a place they get unfettered access — which can pose a hazard to those nibbling pups who view the garden as their own personal salad bar.
To be on the safe side, all dog owners and Hosts should ensure their yard is free from toxic plants. To get you started, below are some of the worst offenders, followed by tips to help you decipher whether your plants are okay, or no-way.
Snap photos or bring clippings to your local nursery for identification.
SAGO PALM (Cycas revoluta, zamia species)
This common landscaping plant can be identified by its stocky appearance and spiked, “fringy” green leaves. Although it’s most often seen in California, Texas and Florida, it has recently gained popularity in other regions as well. The entire plant is toxic, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the greatest concentration.
Signs of ingestion: Vomiting increased thirst, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, jaundice, black-tarry stool, liver failure, and death
AZALEA (Rhododendron spp)
This ubiquitous flowering shrub is a member of the Rhododendron family and is sold throughout the United States. Appearance can vary widely, but most garden azaleas contain 5 or 6 stamens per flower and come in white, pink, orange, red and purple varieties.
Signs of ingestion: Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness, hypotension, CNS depression, cardiovascular collapse and death. Ingestion of a few leaves can cause serious problems.
FOXGLOVE (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxglove is easily identified by its dramatic, towering spikes and dense, trumpet-shaped flowers. It comes in a variety of colors including purple, white, pink and orange, and can thrive in most climates and regions in the U.S.
Signs of poisoning: Drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure, death
CYCLAMEN (Cyclamen spp)
Cyclamen is a widely available flowering plant that can be recognized by its “upswept” petals that come in pink, white, red or purple.
Signs of ingestion: Salivation, vomiting, diarrhea. Following large ingestions of tubers: heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, death
POTHOS (Epipremnum aureum)
Pothos is a popular indoor plant for homes, office buildings and shopping centers because it’s attractive and easy to care for. It also grows outdoors in temperate regions and is sometimes called “devil’s ivy” because it’s almost impossible to kill. It has waxy, heart-shaped leaves in varying shades of green — some with variegated markings in white, yellow or light green.
Signs of ingestion: Intense burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing
OLEANDER (Nerium oleander)
Oleander is a common perennial tree or shrub that can grow up to 12 feet high and is often seen along roadsides in warm climates such as California, Texas and Hawaii. The delicate flowers are generally white, pink, peach or red. All parts of the plant are toxic.
Signs of ingestion: Diarrhea (possibly bloody), sweating, incoordination, shallow/difficult breathing, muscle tremors, recumbency and possibly death from cardiac failure
While not a plant, this common type of garden mulch attracts dogs with its sweet smell and appealing taste. Made from cocoa bean hulls, it contains theobromine and caffeine, the same toxins found in chocolate.
Signs of ingestion: Vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, elevated heart rate, hyperactivity, seizures
CASTOR BEAN (Ricinus communis)
he “castor oil” plant has large, tropical, multi-lobed leaves and clusters of spiny red or green fruits. There are several varieties with different leaf colors including black-purple, dark red, maroon, green with white veins, and just plain green. They typically grow wild along stream banks and river beds in tropical and temperate regions including the southwestern U.S., and are sometimes used in ornamental landscaping.
Signs of ingestion: Oral irritation, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, weakness, trembling, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing, bloody diarrhea, convulsions, coma, death
YEW (Taxus spp.)
Yew is an evergreen shrub that includes many species (including Japanese Yew, American Yew and English Yew). They can be found throughout the U.S. and are typically planted as hedges or screens. The most common identifier among the various species are their simple, needlelike leaves that are spirally arranged downwards along a central stem. Some have red “berries.”
Signs of ingestion: Varies between species but can include drooling, tremors, difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures and death from acute heart failure.
WATER HEMLOCK (Cicuta maculata)
Typically found growing in wet meadows, along stream banks and other marshy areas, the USDA describes water hemlock as “the most violently toxic plant that grows in North America.” However, keep in mind that most all poisonings affect grazing animals, and incidents of dog poisonings are extremely rare.
Signs of ingestion: Diarrhea, seizures, tremors, extreme stomach pain, dilated pupils, fever, bloat, respiratory depression, and death.