It is important to be aware that plants and flowers are toxic to dogs and cats. This list can vary for dogs, cats, horses, and other companion animals. As a concerned pet owner, you want to make sure your environment has plants and flowers that are safe for dogs and cats.
Dogs are less likely to be poisoned by ornamental plants than cats, in part because cats consume a wider variety of plants than dogs. Azaleas may be the decorative plant responsible for the most deadly diseases in dogs, whereas lilies, especially Easter lilies, may be responsible for the most cat deaths or major illnesses. These are some of the findings of a major review of animal-toxic plants by Burrows and Tyrl conducted in North America in 2001.
Certain “no-no” plants and flowers can cause anything from mild stomach upset to full out respiratory distress or even death. Signs of plant poisoning can include lethargy, drooling, bleeding gums, depression, vomiting, uncontrollable urination or thirst, dehydration and seizures.
For those who tend to beloved gardens and also dote on our adorable “fur babies”, with pet friendly plants and flowers, we can relate to how much both are valued. Our four-legged family members are an important part of our lives and their curiosity, especially when young, is legendary. Some pets will nibble at or eat just about anything, including plants and flowers. We want them to enjoy the yard and garden as much as we do, but it’s important to make sure they are safe while they do so!
Here is more on keeping your dog out of the garden.
Table of contents
- Toxic Plants for Dogs and Cats
- Plant and Flowers Safe for Dogs and Cats
- Pet Friendly Plants Video
If you think your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or your 24-hour emergency poison hotline.
The good news? You don’t have to give up a passion for flowers and gardening when you welcome a new cat or dog into your household! Check out the following lists for “good” and “bad” choices in your garden and when ordering pet friendly plants and flowers for yourself or for a recipient who has pets.
Please keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive, that effects can vary somewhat by an animal’s weight and breed, and that ingestion of even “safe” plants or flowers may cause some tummy troubles. We focused on dogs and cats as these are our most common household pets, and for more details or to inquire about other animals you are best to consult with your veterinarian or a reputable online pet care resource.
Toxic Plants for Dogs and Cats
According to the SPCA of Ontario, here are the most common poisonous plants. If your garden contains these varieties and your pet spends time unattended there, you may want to consider relocating or removing these choices, or supervising your furry friends when they are nearby.
Azalea and Rhododendrum
Azaleas, also called Rosebay or Rhododendron, are common plants in outdoor landscaping. Despite their beauty, they can be toxic if eaten by dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles, pigs, horses, and goats (to name a few!). The toxic component of Azaleas is called Grayantoxin. This toxin affects the body’s sodium channels which then affect the muscle tissue of the heart and skeletal muscles.
All parts of the plant are poisonous and even small volumes can cause clinical symptoms to develop. Your pet only needs to ingest 0.2% of their body weight to become ill. This means a 30-pound dog only needs to eat about 0.5oz to 1oz of the plant to get sick.
Cat owners should be aware that those lovely flowers can potentially be toxic for cats. Daffodils, for example, can cause stomach upsets, vomiting, or worse if your cat eats the foliage, flowers or pods. Other plants you may not suspect, like aloe vera, can be toxic for cats as well. Some pet owners have reported that these toxic daffodils have killed their pets.
Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane)
This plant can induce vomiting and can make it difficult to breathe. It can also cause excessive drooling and skin irritation. Anticoccus This plant may cause respiratory difficulties. It can induce vomiting and excretion of stomach contents. If your cat ingests this plant, it may have trouble breathing.
Caution: If your cat ingests this plant, immediately discontinue its use as a litter box. Chamomile This plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues. If your cat ingests it, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Careful when giving your cat water with the tea that you use for your tea leaves to avoid vomiting. Careful if you are using this tea for any reason.
This invasive plant can cause kidney failure in cats. This tree can grow up to 15 meters high and it has leaf blades that are similar to the blades of an umbrella. When they sprout up, the leaves can cause the stomach to swell, making it difficult for the cat to swallow. Trees in the genus Anacardium, such as Black Locust, Cycas, and Datura, are especially toxic to cats and can cause skin and kidney damage.
They can also lead to depression in cats. If you have a tree that is toxic to your cat, you will need to consult with a local arborist to remove it. Queen Anne’s Lace (Achillea millefolium) This plant can cause joint pain, liver inflammation, and respiratory issues. In severe cases, this plant can cause blindness and even death.
The ASPCA warns that primrose is harmful to cats, horses, and dogs. In cats, it usually results in mild to moderate gastrointestinal upset. The plant’s precise hazardous ingredient is unknown.
The chemical compounds in the plants can be toxic to cats.Cat problems associated with geranium are dryness of the mouth and vomiting. Some cats even develop osteomyelitis in the mouth. Symptoms of the disease include pain and swelling in the mouth. It is important that geranium is kept away from cats. Geranium should not be used in houseplants or plants where there is a risk of inhaling toxins or getting cut.
Although humans eat the bulbs of true lilies, cats are easily poisoned by the plants. As little as two leaves or part of a flower have resulted in death. Toxicity is generally attributed to a water-soluble toxin producing renal failure. Symptoms include salivation, vomiting, anorexia, and depression. The toxin acts rapidly, and treatment needs to be administered quickly. It is recommended that Easter lilies and cats should not be kept indoors together. (Source ABA)
Lucky Bamboo is toxic to cats and dogs and can cause weakness, vomiting, or other abdominal issues. However, lucky bamboo is generally considered non-toxic to humans.
These plants are toxic to cats if consumed. Some of their symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and even seizures. It is not recommended that your cat eat the berries of this plant since they can cause dehydration, salivation, and paralysis.
If your cat consumes this plant, there are various symptoms that will appear, including vomiting, lethargy and kidney failure. Popcorn plants The seeds of this plant are very toxic to cats. There are symptoms like difficulty breathing and seizures, if your cat eats them. It can be fatal if ingested.
Opium poppies are the most poisonous plants in the world, and they are also one of the most painful. These plants are what you come across when you are on a walk in the park, but also, you should be cautious not to eat the poppies themselves, since they can be a severe poison. Amur cactus The Amur cactus is a pain causing plant that is also toxic to cats.
If your cat consumes the plant, the main symptom will be vomiting, diarrhea, and depression. Datura The poison from the Datura plant is called “Purple Death” and the most common symptoms would include vomiting and paralysis. It is extremely poisonous to cats. Vanda Seymor It is also known as the Bush Champaca or in French as the Plant de la fièvre d’Oribel’s, and it contains a powerful toxin called vandamine.
Oleander is not good for cats because of its flowers that smell a bit strange and can cause irritation. The leaves, berries, and seed pods contain a toxic substance called xanthone which can kill your cat in few hours, so use the chemical formulas that are available on the market to get rid of the poison.
Oleander is on the list of the top ten toxic plants for cats, so be careful when you are choosing the best plant to keep away your cats from this lethal flower. Rhododendron As we already mentioned above, a lot of Rhododendron plants are poisonous to cats, so it’s best to stay away from these plants. Pelargonium If you live in a flat, it’s recommended to keep these plants on a balcony or other elevated places.
This is a common indoor plant found in pots and drawers all over the home. Its toxic reaction to light and petting has been reported, making it a tempting cat-roast in a matter of seconds. The problem lies with its very hard or prickly leaves, which are especially hard to wash off. Don’t buy this plant, and if you have one that is stuck on your windowsill, remove the petals immediately.
Balm of Gilead Known as an expensive hedge and smoky patch plant, Balm of Gilead is a smelly flowering shrub, and its potent fumes can be fatal for your cat. It is poisonous in large doses and its sharp leaves can injure your kitty if he manages to eat or inhale a few. You can buy this in gardening stores or on the internet. Kumquat This small but mildly toxic fruit or tree is commonly found in the US.
The yew is a common evergreen tree that is toxic to all animals including cats. Grown for its ornamental qualities, it is from the plant family Taxaceae and common names include Japanese yew, Chinese yew, and English yew. All parts of the plant, except the seed covering, are toxic including evergreen foliage and succulent red berries which contain taxine, an extremely toxic plant compound to cats and other animals. If ingested, muscle tremors, seizures, respiratory distress, and cardiac failure resulting in death can occur.
Other Plants dangerous for Cats and Dogs
- Aloe; digestive
- Allium (Onion ): Blood
- Amaryllis: Digestive
- Autumn Crocus
- Castor Bean
- Cycas: hepatic
- Cyclamen: digestive
- Daphne: digestive
- Datura: nervous, ocular
- Digitalis: digestive, cardiac
- English Ivy: digestive
- Gladiolus: digestive
- Gloriosa: digestive
- Kalancho: digestive, cardiac
- Pothos: digestive
- Sago Palm
- Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
“For flowers, I would add Birds of Paradise, Iris, Poinsettia and Narcissus to the “best to avoid for pets” list,” adds Young. “Baby’s breath is usually okay for cats, but not good for dogs.”
Click here for a full list of non-toxic and toxic plants for dogs published by the ASPCA.
Plant and Flowers Safe for Dogs and Cats
New England Aster is relatively pest free but can be susceptible to powdery mildew which can be contained by planting in full sun, not watering the leaves, increasing air quality and buying high quality plants, as low quality plants have more potential to suffer from it.
Celosia has an interesting shape and is a great choice for pet parents! They’re not poisonous to cats or dogs and grow best in zones 10-12. In most of Canada and the USA, they’re annuals. They come in a wide array of colours to liven up any garden!
Gerbera Daisies and Zinnia
Gerbera Daisies are colourful, cheerful and hearty. Another reason to love them? “Gerberas are another safe choice for most pets,” says Young. “If you are sending flowers to a household with a young animal, gerberas are an excellent choice that won’t cause stress in the “new parents.”” Zinnia, another member of the daisy family, is another great choice for the garden.
Another annual that is well tolerated by pets, these plants in hues of gold, orange and copper bring cheer to any garden space. Marigolds bloom from late spring to early frost and are super easy to grow. Known as “herb of the sun” these bright flowers have added benefits: they attract bees and ladybugs, but seem to deter deer and rabbits (depending on how hungry these critters are). Bonus? Marigolds will also repel mosquitoes as well as insects that enjoy tomato plants! They also make excellent cut bouquets from your own garden.
Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, and other Orchid specie are other generally safe choices for pet households, according to Bloomex. “But if you have a hungry cat or curious puppy and you don’t want your beautiful potted orchid destroyed, consider dusting the leaves with cinnamon or cayenne pepper,” advises Young. “You could also use a green apple spray which is safe but which most dogs detest, and which is available at most pet stores.”
Vibrant and colourful, petunias, including grandiflora, multiflora, milliflora and spreading types are all considered safe for pets. So planting petunias in a yard with pets is a great choice.
Roses are a much beloved garden or flower choice, with over 100 species. According to Bloomex, roses remain one of the most popular flowers to send in Canada. “The good news is they are generally considered as flowers safe for dogs and cats,” says Young, “but watch out for the thorns as these can still cause scratches or wounds.”
“Another wonderful choice for pet owners!”adds Young. Sunflower, or helianthus, is a genus of plants with approximately 70 species. “All of these flowers are safe for dogs and cats, and for humans also. Some people use sunflowers medicinally, such as to treat coughs, and of course sunflower seeds make a tasty and nutritious snack, so these flowers are an excellent choice for pet households too.”
If you aren’t sure, check with your vet or consult a reliable list of plants that are safe or toxic for your particular pet. A reliable list of plants is published by the Canadian Botanical Association (See Page 40 of 44). Let friends and family know about the dangers of certain plants and flowers, and that way, you or they can ask an experienced florist before selecting a gift to send to pet parents. Walk through your garden and review your plant choices for any area in which your pet may spend time unattended.
This way we get to balance our love of beautiful plants and flowers, with love for our furry companions!
By Sue McDonald, Bloomex.
Sources: Canadian Botanical Association