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5 Most Toxic Plants to Dogs

Some plants can be perilous to pets — avoid these offenders.

by April Long
May 24, 2021
Dog sitting on a couch in a living room with plants
Photo: FollowTheFlow / Adobe Stock

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It’s boom time for houseplants. Whether as a way to connect to nature, to give ourselves the meditative sense of purpose that plant care provides, or simply because leaves of all shapes and sizes look so sculptural and alluring on Instagram, we simply cannot get enough indoor greenery. When selecting your next photosynthesizing friend, however, it’s important to remember that some plants can be perilous to pets — especially to dogs who tend to snuffle up fallen leaves or gnaw on branches as if they were chew toys. Most of us are unlikely to have extremely poisonous plants growing in our living rooms — like, say, hemlock or mistletoe — but there are a number of common houseplants that can have toxic effects when consumed by a grazing canine. Here, five of the biggest offenders to avoid.

Pothos  

One of the most popular houseplants around, pothos — also known as Devil’s Ivy — boasts pretty, heart-shaped leaves, and is often seen trailing out of hanging baskets. Unfortunately, its leaves contain tiny calcium oxalate crystals, which can irritate a dog’s mouth if ingested, causing burning and swelling of the tongue (a telltale sign would be excessive drooling or pawing at the mouth). Note: these crystals are also found in philodendrons and dieffenbachia, or ‘dumb cane,’ which should also be skipped by pet owners.

Peace Lily

A plant that’s often sold in grocery stores, peace lilies are celebrated for their ability to grow in very low light and filter out pollutants from indoor air. However, buyer beware: the flowers’ pollen can be an irritant, and the leaves, flowers, and stems contain calcium oxalate, which is toxic to both cats and dogs. Signs of consumption include excessive drooling, vomiting, and oral irritation.

Cyclamen

A cyclamen — sometimes called Persian violet — may produce pretty, vividly colored flowers in wintertime, but if you have a dog, steer clear. Triterpenoid saponins found throughout the plant (but especially in the roots) can cause abnormal heart rate and seizures when ingested in large quantities, and abdominal pain and vomiting when eaten in smaller amounts.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera plants produce a soothing gel that can safely be applied topically or ingested, but the outer parts of the succulent’s spiky leaves contain anthraquinone glycosides, which are considered moderately toxic to dogs and can cause diarrhea and vomiting if chewed.

Sago Palm

The most dangerous plant on the list, sago palms should not be kept in — or near — any home with a pet. Most often grown outdoors in warm climates, the palms are also popular as houseplants thanks to the tropical effect they can add to a room. Not worth it for pet lovers: Every part of the sago palm is poisonous, and ingestion of even one to two seeds, which are particularly prone to being eaten by dogs, can cause acute liver failure or even death. If you suspect that your dog has consumed sago palm, seek immediate veterinary assistance.

If your dog has ingested any of the above, see a vet ASAP. Check out the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List for more plants and flowers toxic to dog.

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April Long

April Long is a writer and editor who has contributed to Town & Country, ELLE, Marie Claire, Vogue, Well & Good, and many more publications both print and online. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband Will, dogs Gimlet and Pixie, and a semi-feral cat named Watson.