Is That Houseplant Safe for Your Pets?

February 27, 2019

Cat by orchid

Did you know that houseplants, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, can also provide health benefits for you and your pet? Houseplants have been noted to keep carbon dioxide levels down, remove certain pollutants, improve moisture levels and keep airborne dust down in homes. But unfortunately, some of those green-leafed beauties may be troublesome for our four-legged friends, and it’s important to be mindful when bringing something potentially toxic into your home. 

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has put together a short list of common houseplants that could be problematic to your pets so that you can stay informed on how to keep your furry friends safe, happy and healthy.

Mildly Toxic Plants

Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrate) and Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Both the Fiddle Leaf Fig and Spider Plant are mildly toxic to dogs and cats. With small ingestions of the plant material, there is a risk for mild gastrointestinal irritation. The most common signs observed are vomiting and diarrhea. Sap from the Fiddle Leaf Fig could also cause skin irritation.

Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum), Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia spp.), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.), Philodendron, Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

These six plants contain insoluble calcium oxalates. The stem, leaf stalk and leaves contain tiny crystals that can result in irritation to the mouth and GI tract when chewed on or ingested. Symptoms typically include nausea, drooling, retching, vomiting and diarrhea. In rare cases irritation may become severe and result in swelling of the tongue and back of the throat, resulting in trouble breathing and trouble swallowing. Exposures to these plants are not considered to be life-threatening, but pets who show more severe gastrointestinal distress or have difficulty breathing may require veterinary intervention.

Moderately Toxic Plants

Corn Plant, Dragon Tree and Ribbon Plant (Dracaena spp

Dracaena are categorized as moderately toxic plants. In dogs and cats, small exposures usually cause mild vomiting or diarrhea. However, larger exposures can lead to depression, weakness and lack of coordination. Cats may also develop large pupils, rapid breathing, an elevated heart rate, drooling and abdominal discomfort. If your pet ingests a large amount of these plants, it is best to contact your veterinarian or APCC.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

Most exposures to Jade plants in cats and dogs cause mild gastrointestinal irritation in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. In some pets, lethargy, ataxia, muscle tremors and an elevated heart rate can occur. Although cats seem to be more sensitive to this plant than dogs, more severe symptoms are rare.

Severely Toxic Plants

Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Sago Palms are one of the most dangerous ornamental plants to both cats and dogs. All parts of the plant are toxic. However, the seeds contain the highest concentration of toxins. The main concern with an exposure to this plant is liver failure. Vomiting is very common after exposures and can develop within minutes of ingestion. Other signs may include severe vomiting and diarrhea with blood, lethargy, anorexia and seizures. Liver failure can develop within three days. It is important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if your pet ingested part of this plant. 

Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum)

Easter Lilies are highly toxic to cats. Very small exposures to any part of the plant, including the pollen, can result in kidney injury and death. Without veterinary intervention, exposures can be life threatening. Kidney failure can develop within 48-72 hours.  Vomiting is common after exposures and is typically seen within the first 24 hours. Further signs include depression, lethargy and anorexia. Cats are the only known species to develop kidney injury as a result of exposure. Dogs who ingest this plant may experience mild vomiting or diarrhea, but serious problems have not been seen.

If you believe you pet has ingested a potentially toxic plant and you are concerned, you should contact either your local veterinarian or APCC at (888) 426-4435. And if you have a plant in your home that’s not on this list, you can also download the APCC mobile app for information on many other plants.