When we bring home new houseplants, we don’t typically think of them as hazardous plants. Our interests are more centered around the plant’s leaves, blooms or berries. We wouldn’t think of eating any of these plants, but our pets might. They like to chew, gnaw, nibble, smell, dig and taste. Therefore, it’s important that we are familiar with hazardous plants.
There are too many plants that possess toxins — and may have an adverse effect on our pets if ingested — to mention in this article, but I am focusing on a few plants you may have around the house, along with their toxic classes.
Toxicity depends on the amount of a plant that’s been eaten. According to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, the Department of Urban Plant Pathology and Center for Urban Agriculture, plant toxicities can be categorized in four classes:
- Major toxicity. May result in serious illness or death if ingested.
- Minor toxicity. May result in vomiting or diarrhea if ingested.
- Oxalates. Contains juice or sap with oxalate crystals that can irritate the skin, mouth or throat, and cause swelling, difficulty breathing, pain or an upset stomach.
- Dermatitis. Contact with thorns or sap may result in a skin rash.
Adverse effects can vary from severe to mild, with even common plants causing great distress. Does this mean you can’t have a potentially toxic plant? On the contrary, just familiarize yourself with the plants mentioned below to recognize symptoms if a hazardous situation occurs, and keep these plants out of your pet’s reach.
- Caladium (Caladium bicolor). All parts – toxic class 3 and 4.
- Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia seguine). Leaves – toxic class 3.
- Elephant ear (Colocasia). All parts – toxic class 3 and 4.
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum). Leaves can cause excessive drooling, vomiting – toxic class 3.
- Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa). All parts – toxic class 3.
- Pothos (Epipremnum aureum). All parts – toxic class 3.
- Schefflera (Schefflera actinophylla). All parts – toxic class 3.
This article isn’t intended to be a replacement for any medical advice; its purpose is to bring more awareness about the plants in your home and the ones you are considering the next time you visit your favorite nursery or plant store. Most important, if you ever suspect your pet isn’t acting normal or their behavior is odd, contact your veterinary doctor immediately. (It’s a good idea to add their phone number to your favorites.)
In future articles, we will look at other types of plants — holiday, landscape and ornamental — along with lawn practices that may be hazardous to your pets.
– Jennifer Ruscilli is a Cherokee County Master Gardener who loves gardening, wildlife and pets. She also has previous experience as a veterinary associate.