Poisonous Plants

It looks like spring is finally here and, while I’m no gardener myself, I know that many people like to be out in their yards, either planning a garden, or adding flowers and shrubs to the yard. If you have pets, research the plants that you want to add to your yard before you plant them. Also, a word of caution on cocoa mulch. This mulch is made from cacao bean husks and it smells wonderful. It smells like chocolate. The problem is that, like chocolate, it contains both theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic to dogs and cats.

If you’ve used it before and your pets ignore it, that’s great, but if you’ve never used it before, play it safe and don’t. If you’ve already put some down, supervise your pets’ outdoor time. Puppies especially will put just about anything in their mouths and if they’re teething, they’ll chew even more.

If your dog vomits or seems lethargic and you suspect he’s eaten some cocoa mulch, get him to your veterinarian right away.

Now, back to plants. If you’re buying plants from a nursery, ask about the specific ones you want. Are any parts of the plant poisonous?

Checking the Internet can also be a quick, easy way to find out if the plants you want are in any way toxic to pets.

One good site is www.dog-healthguide.org/dogpoisonousplants.html.

You’ll soon see that the list of poisonous plants is a long one. Even some food plant parts can be dangerous.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have flowers in your yard; you just need to think ahead. For instance, iris, tulip and daffodil bulbs are poisonous, but, unless you have a puppy who is in the digging phase, you can enjoy the flowers without much danger. If you have a terrier who may enjoy digging his entire life and who may dig up a bulb or two chasing a rodent, use a little more caution. We have all three of these flowers and have never had any trouble. If you’re planting the bulbs, keep them away from your dog.

Several years ago, we had two apple trees in our yard. The apples were on the small side, but were edible. Griffin especially loved lying in the yard and munching apple after apple. Apple seeds contain cyanide, as do cherry and peach pits. I have no idea how many apple seeds a pet would need to eat to be poisoned, but apparently it’s quite a few because none of my dogs ever had an adverse reaction. Rhododendron, philodendron, English ivy, marigolds, holly, hydrangea, hemlock, yew and rhubarb can all be harmful. Most of my dogs have always pretty much ignored plantings in the yard. The exception was Rhiannon. When she was a puppy and into her second year, she enjoyed breaking branches off the lilac bush and chewing them. By the time we moved to a new location, the bush in the yard had suffered in her paws. We had even put a small fence around the bush, but if a branch stuck through the fencing, it was Rhiannon’s. It’s a good thing lilacs aren’t poisonous.

You don’t see many oleanders in Jamestown, but it’s another very poisonous plant. All the parts of an oleander are poisonous and can cause death to both pets and people. If I had an oleander in my yard, I’d dig it up and get rid of it.

Another growth that may be harmful to pets is one you might overlook because it’s not always visible and not one you’d plant yourself. It’s mushrooms. Many are totally harmless, but many are harmful and unless you’re a student of mushrooms, you won’t know the difference until it’s too late. Keep an eye on your pets and don’t let them snack on mushrooms.

If you’re planning to add some new plant to your yard this season, ask the folks at the nursery about any parts of the plant that may be poisonous and, if so, what kind of problems can they cause. If you’re adding a new puppy to the family, supervise his yard time. Puppies will eat almost anything and even non-poisonous items can cause problems if a puppy swallows too much.

Sometimes, when it’s muddy and the lawn has bare patches and I’m tired of avoiding the holes the dogs have dug, I dream of a yard covered with gravel, with raspberry bushes along the fence, and a few lilac and rose bushes – dog safe and practically maintenance free.