Which plants are toxic or safe for your dog and cat?

Adult dogs and cats are more careful in their explorations, but puppies and kittens often take a “chew first, ask later” approach. Read on to learn which plants are harmless and which not.

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Plants can’t run away from danger, so they had to invent other defences, like producing toxins to avoid being eaten. Most of these toxins are aimed at plant-eating animals but other species, like dogs and cats, can easily become accidental victims if they chew on them.

It’s virtually impossible to list every toxic plant in the UK, so the list below contains the most common and the most toxic ones. To make it easier to navigate, they are split into houseplants and outdoor plants, found in gardens (including cut flowers) or growing wild.

The description starts with the Latin name of the plant for easier identification, then its common name(s) and the symptoms it can cause. Where known, the most toxic parts of the plant and the timeframe within which the symptoms are usually seen are added as well.

Most intoxications happen after ingestion and therefore you’ll notice that drooling and vomiting/diarrhoea are almost universal signs. For some mildly toxic plants the symptoms will be limited to this. Some plants though also contain substances acting on the nervous system or the (heart and respiratory) muscles, those are the very dangerous ones as they can interfere with vital functions like breathing and blood circulation. A few plants, like the giant hogweed, do not need to be eaten to cause issues, they can damage the skin from contact alone.

To help you create a safe environment for your pet, after the toxic plants, we’ve added a list of those that are well-known to not contain any irritating or harmful substances.

Toxic plants for dogs and cats

Houseplants

  • Aloe veraaloe – vomiting and diarrhoea, large amounts lead to depression, anorexia, changes in urine colour, and rarely, tremors.

  • Caladium spp.elephant’s ears or angel wings – pain and swelling of the mouth, tongue and lips, drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing. All plant parts are poisonous.

  • Cestrum spp.jessamines – vomiting and diarrhoea, can affect the nervous system too. The berries and sap are the most toxic.

  • Cycas revolutasago palm – diarrhoea and vomiting, but also neurological signs (abnormal behaviour or lethargy). Toxins are more concentrated in the seeds, though all parts of the plant are toxic.

  • Dieffenbachia spp.dumb canes or leopard lilies – irritation and blistering of the mouth, drooling, swelling, difficulty swallowing and breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea. All parts of the plants are toxic. Symptoms are usually seen within 2 hours.

  • Hippeastrum spp.amaryllis or Barbados lilies – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions, tremors. Bulbs are the most poisonous part.

  • Asparagus setaceusasparagus fern – skin irritation with repeated contact, eating the berries can cause vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

  • Epipremnum spp.pothos or devil’s ivy – vomiting, mouth swelling and pain, excessive drooling or blistering.

  • Ficus elasticarubber plant – the sap can cause skin irritation, eating plant parts causes vomiting, diarrhoea, inappetence and excessive drooling.

  • Philodendron spp.philodendrons – irritation of the mouth, drooling, oral pain and vomiting.

  • Euphorbia pulcherrimapoinsettia – mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhoea.

  • Scindapsus pictussatin pothos or silver vine – irritation, pain and swelling of the mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.

  • Spathiphyllum sp.peace lilies – mild vomiting and diarrhoea.

  • Zamioculcas zamiifoliaZZ plant – drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. All parts of the plant contain toxins.

Garden, wild plants and cut flowers

  • Aesculus hippocastanumhorse chestnut – vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, abdominal tenderness, increased thirst, decreased appetite. All parts are toxic, but the bark, flowers and leaves have the highest toxin concentrations. Signs develop within 6 hours. Large conkers can also cause gut obstruction if swallowed whole.

  • Alocasia spp.elephant’s ear – drooling, swollen and painful mouth, decreased appetite, vomiting.

  • Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade – hallucinations, depression, an elevated heart rate, and possible respiratory failure. All parts of the plant are toxic, including the berries.

  • Bergenia sp.elephant’s ear – drooling, pawing at the mouth, inappetence and vomiting.

  • Cicuta maculataspotted water hemlock – drooling, dilated pupils, weakness, agitation, nervousness, twitching, seizures, cardiac abnormalities, difficult breathing, death from respiratory paralysis possible. One of the most poisonous plants out there, all parts are toxic.

  • Clematis spp.clematis – drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Luckily it’s very bitter, which deters most dogs from consuming large amounts.

  • Colchicum autumnaleautumn crocus or meadow saffron – severe vomiting and diarrhoea, drop in body temperature, weakness, collapse. Seeds and bulbs are the most toxic parts. Poisoning signs seen within 48 hours.

  • Conium maculatum, poison hemlock – agitation, tremors, drooling, diarrhoea, paralysis, can cause death by respiratory paralysis. All parts of the plant are toxic.

  • Convallaria majalislily of the valley – vomiting and diarrhoea, but also a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures.

  • Cotoneaster horizontaliswall cotoneaster – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea (sometimes with blood), lethargy and incoordination. Toxic compounds in the bark, leaves, flowers and particularly the fruit. Onset of signs within 4 to 6 hours.

  • Crocus sp.spring crocus – lack of appetite, vomiting (occasionally with blood), diarrhoea and abdominal pain, lethargy. Signs are usually seen within 2 to 4 hours, sometimes up to 12 hours.

  • Datura stramonium, thorn apple or jimson weed – dilated pupils, light sensitivity, restlessness, anxiousness, dryness of the mouth, abdominal pain from intestinal stasis (stops the normal flow of gut content), constipation, increased heart rate and breathing, walking drunk, and respiratory failure.

  • Delphinium spp.larkspurs – vomiting and diarrhoea, nervousness, depression. Most toxic parts are the seeds and the young plants.

  • Dianthus caryophylluscarnation – vomiting, diarrhoea, skin irritation and itching.

  • Digitalis spp.foxgloves – nausea, drooling, vomiting, dilated pupils, abnormal heart rate, tremors, seizures. All parts of the plant are toxic, even the water in the vase has been reported to cause toxicosis.

  • Eucalyptus spp.eucalypts – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, weakness.

  • Galanthus spp., snowdrops – drooling, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, incoordination, drop in heart rate and seizures. The bulbs, stems and leaves contain the toxic substances, with the highest concentrations in the bulbs.

  • Hedera helixcommon ivy – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. All parts of the plant are toxic, particularly the leaves and fruits. Symptoms are seen within a few hours. Can also cause allergic dermatitis.

  • Hemerocallis spp.daylilies – for dogs this is a mild poison, it may cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. For cats the ingestion is life-threatening as it causes severe kidney toxicity in very small amounts.

  • Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed – unlike the other toxic plants, hogweed does not need to be ingested to cause problems, contact with the stem and leaves or its sap leads to serious skin burns and blisters.

  • Hyacinthoides spp.bluebells – vomiting, diarrhoea (may be bloody), abdominal discomfort, lethargy, depression, abnormal heart rate, disorientation, hallucinations. All parts of these plants obtain toxins (including the bulb). Signs develop within a few hours.

  • Hyacinthus orientalishyacinth – vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. The bulbs contain higher concentrations of the harmful substances. Symptoms appear within a few hours.

  • Hydrangea spp.hortensias – vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. Higher concentrations of toxins are in leaves and flowers.

  • Ilex aquifoliumholly – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, inappetence and depression. Toxic substances are more concentrated in the leaves, stems and berries. Symptoms develop usually within 2 to 3 hours.

  • Iris spp.irises – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, and lethargy, the toxic compounds are present in highest concentration in the bulb (or rhizome).

  • Laburnum anagyroidesgolden rain – drooling, persistent vomiting and diarrhoea, lethargy, muscular spasms, incoordination and convulsions. Death from respiratory paralysis is possible, but thankfully severe cases of laburnum poisoning in dogs are rare. Symptoms are usually seen within 2 hours.

  • Lilium spp.lilies – for dogs this is a mild poison, it may cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. For cats the ingestion is life-threatening as it causes severe kidney toxicity in very small amounts.

  • Nandina domesticaheavenly bamboo – weakness, incoordination, seizures, coma, respiratory failure possible (rare in pets though).

  • Narcissus spp.daffodils – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, lethargy, depression. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the bulb, signs of intoxication seen within 15 minutes to 24 hours.

  • Nerium oleanderoleander – nausea, drooling, vomiting, abnormal heart rate, tremors, seizures. Any part of the oleander can cause problems.

  • Oenanthe crocatahemlock water-dropwort – drooling, dilated pupils, respiratory distress, and convulsions. All parts of the plant are toxic.

  • Ornithogalum spp.star of Bethlehem – nausea, drooling, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythm and rate, dilated pupils, tremors, seizures. All parts of the plant are toxic, even the water in the vase.

  • Paeonia spp.peonies – vomiting and diarrhoea. Toxin concentrated in the outer layers of the stem.

  • Pelargonium spp.geraniums – vomiting, anorexia, depression, dermatitis.

  • Prunus aviumwild cherry – dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, bright red gums, can cause death from respiratory failure. Most toxic parts are the young twigs and leaves.

  • Prunus laurocerasuscherry laurel – vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort, higher amounts may cause dilated pupils, abnormal breathing, weakness, tremors and collapse.

  • Quercus spp.oaks – vomiting, diarrhoea (sometimes bloody), abdominal tenderness, lethargy and depression. The buds and unripe acorns contain high concentrations of toxins. The individual response to the toxins is very variable, some animals are severely affected; others not at all. Symptoms are usually seen within 1 to 24 hours. Similar to conkers, acorns can also cause gut obstructions.

  • Ranunculus spp.buttercups – redness and swelling of the mouth, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, and weakness; in larger amounts can cause blood-tinged urine, tremors, and seizures, thankfully the poison is bitter and ingestion of large quantities is rare. The flower part contains the highest amount of toxin.

  • Rhododendron spp.rhododendrons or azaleas – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, inappetence, abdominal tenderness, trembling, staggering, lethargy, weakness, slow heart rate and exhaustion. Fatal cases due to respiratory failure are possible, though very rare in dogs. All parts of the plant are toxic. Symptoms appear within 20 minutes to 2 hours.

  • Ricinus communiscastor bean or castor oil plant – inappetence, drooling, abdominal pain, vomiting, severe bloody diarrhoea, straining, weakness, trembling, collapse. All parts are toxic.

  • Senecio jacobaearagwort – inappetence, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, sleepiness, incoordination, jaundice, abnormal behaviour. Any part of the plant is toxic. Signs develop within a few days to a week.

  • Solanum tuberosumpotato plant – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, inappetence, abdominal pain, lethargy and incoordination. The toxins are present in the leaves, stems and fruit of the potato plant (not the tuber that we normally eat). The onset of symptoms may be delayed 12 hours or more.

  • Solanum lycopersicumtomato plant – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, weakness or confusion are possible. The toxins are present in the leaves, stems and very immature fruit of the tomato plant (not the ripe fruit that we normally eat).

  • Sorbus aucupariarowan or mountain ash – drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea (sometimes with blood). Symptoms seen often within 8 hours, but may be delayed up to 24 hours.

  • Taxus spp.yew – vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, dilated pupils, lethargy, trembling, incoordination, convulsions and coma. Toxic substances are found in all parts of the plant except the fleshy red fruit. Intoxication signs seen within 6 hours.

  • Tulipa spp.tulips – drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Most toxic part is the bulb. Serious cases are rare, but heart problems and difficulty breathing are also a possibility with tulip poisoning.

  • Viscum albummistletoe – drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and weakness. All parts – the berries, leaves and stems contain toxins, symptoms appear within a few hours.

  • Wisteria spp.wisterias – vomiting (with or without blood), diarrhoea, stomach pain and depression. Most toxic parts are the pods and seeds.

Safe plants for dogs and cats

Houseplants

Garden plants and cut flowers

  • Thlaspi arvense, pennycress (added to cut flower arrangements for a rustic look)

When to get in touch with a vet?

Take your dog or cat to the vet immediately if you have seen them eating or nibbling on a toxic plant. Do not try to make them sick at home.

Speak to a vet if you have seen your pet eating some plant material and you don’t know if that specific plant is poisonous (our list is not exhaustive, rarer plants not on it can also be poisonous). Use the button on this page to book an appointment with one of our vets. Within 30 minutes maximum you will get the necessary advice from an experienced vet. Our vets have access to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service and can quickly give you the correct answer.

It’s very helpful for vets to know what they are dealing with, the more information they have, the better, therefore take a note of:

  • the time of ingestion,

  • how much and which plant parts your pet was seen eating or are missing from the plant,

  • what symptoms appeared since ingestion,

  • the plant’s Latin name, or at least its common name; If you don’t know it, have a sample of the plant or, if small enough, the entire plant to show.

What can you do to keep your pet safe?

It’s obviously better to prevent any intoxications due to plants, so here’s a few steps to follow to avoid it:

 

  • check any plants you bring in your house, have or plant in your garden if they are safe and not containing any toxins,

  • if you are not sure, place them somewhere your dog or cat doesn’t reach, for indoor plants this can be a high shelf or attached to the wall, for garden plants this can be behind a fence,

  • closely supervise young and playful pets for what they mouth or grab,

  • when cutting flowers or trimming your plants, make sure you always clean and pick up the cut parts,

  • when planting in your garden, store the bulbs in a closed container, taking them out one per one and burying them immediately,

  • dog-proof the areas where you recently planted the bulbs (cats are less likely to dig things out),

  • make a note during your walks of what kind of plants grow in those areas and avoid them if there are a lot of poisonous plants there and your dog likes to tug or nibble at them while exploring.

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