Dr. Jennifer Challenger DVM, MPH

As gardens begin to grow and homes and yards become filled with green plants and vibrant blooms, we need to be sure that curious cats and dogs are safe from any potential dangers. Certain flowers and plants are extremely toxic and can be deadly if ingested. It is a good idea for people with a green thumb, as well as all pet owners, to keep lifesaving information on recently purchased foliage on hand.

Cats are prone to chewing on indoor or outdoor plants. If you know your mischievous kitty does this, check out the ASPCA Animal Poison control Center’s website www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants to read lists of toxic and nontoxic plants to ensure that none of those you own are poisonous to pets. In addition, new puppies love to chew on anything they come across. Make sure indoor plants are placed in safe, unreachable areas to prevent potential poisonings.

Some flower and plants included on the list are amaryllis, calla lilies, (and all other lilies), carnations, azaleas, daffodils, elephant’s ear, hibiscus, morning glory, tulips, sago palms and especially oleander.

Surprisingly, there are approximately 100 types of plants and flowers which are considered toxic. Your local floral shop or nursery should also be able to provide you with a list of potentially toxic foliage. Keep this valuable information on hand, which can help identify potential problems if the need arises.

The most common side effects that result from ingesting plants or flowers are vomiting and/or diarrhea. If you suspect that your pet may have been exposed to a potentially toxic substance, call your veterinarian for advice. It may be that emergency treatment is the best course of action you can take for your pet. You can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. The center is staffed 24/7. For a consultation fee, the staff will give you information, as well as take as many follow-up calls as needed from your veterinarian for the duration of the treatment. They will also send you and your veterinarian a comprehensive case summary report.

Plants and flowers sprayed with pesticides can cause serious adverse reactions. Some pets also have allergies to pollens from plants and flowers, just like people. People get ‘hay fever’ symptoms that can include sneezing, runny noses and itchy eyes, but pets get itchy, inflamed skin. Symptoms include scratching excessively at the skin or ears, as well as constant licking and chewing on the skin. If you notice these symptoms, call your veterinarian to discuss ways to give your pet some relief from airborne allergies to blooming flowers, as well as plant and tree pollen.