Tuesday, May 18, 2010
By Linda Cole
Cats and dogs who wander outside during the warmer months will always find something to nibble on. Some may chew on a weed or piece of grass because it tastes good. It doesn't harm them to eat certain plants, but some vegetation is harmful and as responsible pet owners, we need to be aware of what grows in our yards and gardens.
Pets don't know which plants they should leave alone while on their daily patrol around their home. Eating poisonous plants is the number two toxin for cats, and ranks in the top five for dogs. Outside plants that are toxic can cause severe reactions, but for the most part, pets end up with irritations in their gastrointestinal tract or inside their mouth. If a pet eats a toxic plant, they usually get rid of most of the toxins from their system by vomiting.
Grass is perfectly fine if your pet eats some, provided it has not been chemically treated. Some dogs seem to actually crave some greenery now and then. Vets don't really know if dogs eat the grass because they like the taste of it or if there's something in it that's good for them. Some think it's a dog's way of getting rid of an upset stomach. Whatever the reason may be, you want to avoid grass that's been treated with toxic chemicals. If your cat or dog has access to your entire yard, be careful when putting anything on your lawn. Weed killers should also be used with your pet's safety in mind. Make sure to keep cats or dogs off any lawn that's been treated regardless of whether they eat grass or not. Pets who wander around a treated lawn can still pick up chemicals on their paws which can be ingested when they clean themselves.
There are more than 700 poisonous or toxic outside plants that pets need to stay away from. Most gardeners and flower lovers have heard of at least some of the plants or weeds, but those who don't work in the garden may not be aware of what these plants are, let alone spot one on sight. However, it's important to learn what grows in your yard, neighborhood and garden to help keep your pets safe.
Some wild growing plants, shrubs, grasses and weeds to watch out for are: Velvet Grass, Sorghum, Nightshade, Pokeweed, Smart Weeds, Baneberry, Holly, Bloodroot, Buttercup, Chockcherries, Corn Cockle, Cowbane, Cow Cockle, Jimsonweed, Mayapple, Day Lily, Morning Glory, Monkshood, Poison Hemlock and Skunk Cabbage.
Garden plants your pet shouldn't chew on include potatoes, tomatoes, rhubarb and onions. Some garden flowers and outside plants that are toxic to pets are Crocus, Day Lilies, Tiger Lilies, Daffodils, Narcissus, Clematis, Foxglove, Morning Glory and Lily of the Valley.
If your pet does eat a toxic plant, it's important to know what part of the plant they ate and how much they ate. On some plants, not all parts are poisonous whereas others include the entire plant. Some outside plants have toxic roots or seeds and others may have toxic leaves or stems. And some plants are more toxic than others with varying degrees of symptoms and reactions by a pet.
Symptoms to watch out for include sudden vomiting, diarrhea, heavy panting or breathing, acting like they are depressed and have no energy. Call your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten something they shouldn't have. If you know what they ate, take some of the plant, grass or shrub with you when you go to the vet. If you don't know what it is, the vet may know, but either way it can help determine exactly what the toxin is so the vet can properly treat your pet.
Pets can't avoid outside plants, and their curious nature can get them into trouble. It's hard to monitor outside cats while they check out their territory, so one simple precaution would be to walk around your cat's territory to get an idea of what kind of outside plants he could run across. That way you have an idea of what he might have eaten if he comes home with an upset tummy or is showing signs of ingesting something toxic. There are other poisons besides plants a wandering cat can find, so if you notice any signs of possible poisoning, take your pet to the vet to be on the safe side.
For more information on toxic outside plants, please check out this site. This is by no means a complete list of all 700 toxic plants, but it is a good place to start. If you have questions about a plant, talk with your vet.
Read more articles by Linda Cole