Autumn Trees That Poison Our Pets

Friday, October 19, 2012 - 1:00pm

Guest blog by Dr. Michael Knight, Senior Veterinary Toxicologist at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center

Fall marks the time of year when trees begin to drop their fruit and leaves.  In general, this is a good thing, right? But pet parents should be aware that certain tree fruits can be deadly to dogs.

One fruit in particular–the Chinaberry tree (Latin Melia)—is valued for its high quality lumber. Native to Asia, this tree was introduced in the United States around 1830 as an ornamental, but today has become invasive in many areas. As the tree’s marble-sized fruits mature and drop to the ground, dogs sometimes eat and play with them. Natural, poisonous molecules in the fruit can cause severe digestive upset in dogs, often with stomach cramping, bloody vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Seizures can occur in more serious cases, and death can result. We see this problem in dogs every autumn across the United States. 

And horse lovers, we need to isolate our noble friends from red maple (L. Acer rubrum) trees. As red maple leaves begin to change colors and wilt, a deadly poison begins to develop. If eaten by a horse, the leaf can cause severe illness and even death. The poison in the wilted leaf has not yet been identified, but it makes its way into the bloodstream where it attacks red blood cells. Once enough destruction of red blood cells has occurred, a horse cannot get enough oxygen to the brain and other vital tissues. Poisoned horses can die if not treated in time by a veterinarian.

Check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center online for more information about toxic and non-toxic plants.