More than half (55%) of households in the United States own pets, according to data by Packaged Facts in the report U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2019-2020. This percentage translates to 66 million households—composed primarily of 47 million dog-owning households and nearly 30 million cat households. While this percentage has remained steady over the years, the demographic and behavioral trends in pet ownership have shifted, with high-intensity Millennial pet parents growing to be a larger slice of the pet owner pie than aging Boomers. “Most Millennial pet owners (65 percent) say it would be more stressful to be separated from their pet for a week than their cell phone,” says Pet Business Magazine, reporting on a Zulily survey of pet owners.
Year after year, Packaged Facts’ surveys of pet owners make it clear that the “pets as family” trend is going strong, with 90% of dog owners and 86% of cat owners agreeing that “I consider my dogs/cats to be part of the family” during 2018. In fact, many pet owners get pets as a replacement for children and with that level of passion comes some anxiety. Pet owners are ever more aware of the health needs of their furry friends. But one threat of which many pet parents are unaware is tied to another Millennial trend: the rise of indoor and outdoor gardening.
Seemingly innocuous plants that are moderately to extremely toxic to animals line the shelves of nurseries and plants stores.
"We receive over 2800 calls a year regarding plant exposures in or around the home. Of those calls, 66% are about dogs and 34% cats. We receive the most plant exposure calls from the state of California," says Tabitha Regehr, DVM, of Pet Poison Helpline.
In some cases, even just a few leaves or a dusting of pollen can cause symptoms like severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and even coma or death. Read on for a round up of 10 of the most dangerous and common plants.
Rhododendron and Azalea
Closely related, these two flowering bushes can cause vomiting, depression, seizure, and even coma from the consumption of just a few leaves.
Oleander is an outdoor shrub, popular for its evergreen foliage and delicate flowers. However, the leaves and flowers are extremely toxic if ingested and can cause severe vomiting, slow the heart rate and may even cause death.
This very toxic plant adds drama to landscaping but can cause vomiting, jaundice, and abnormal fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
This extremely popular plant, noted for its dramatic foliage and often mistakenly called a Split Leaf philodendron despite not being a member of the philodendron family of plants, can cause drooling and vomiting.
Common as both an indoor and outdoor plant, begonias come in many varieties with lovely flowers and fascinating foliage.
This holiday season favorite is considered to be moderately toxic and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. While not as harmful as its reputation suggests, this is still a plant to watch out for.
This classic flower heralds the start of spring and is commonly featured in home gardens. But the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) warns that tulip bulbs are highly toxic to pets, especially cats.
Flowers in the lily family are extremely toxic to animals. Dr. Tabitha Gerehr warns:
“Lilies, although beautiful in flower arrangements and hardy in the yard, should not be in homes with cats. Lilies only cause stomach upset in dogs but can cause acute kidney failure in cats.
There are two species of lilies that present a toxicity risk and include the Lilium and Hemerocallis species. Both grow from bulbs. Common names include the Easter lily, tiger lily, Asiatic lily, stargazer lily, and day lily.
All parts of this plant are toxic to cats, including the pollen and water from a floral arrangement. Any and all exposure to a true lily by a cat warrants immediate veterinary care and hospitalization.
There are some plants that look, or have names similar to true lilies. We call them imposter lilies, but these are not from the Lilium or Hemerocallis species. The most common imposter lily in a flower arrangement is the alstroemeria or Peruvian lily.
Other common imposter lilies include amaryllis, eucharist, calla lilies, peace lilies, and waterlilies. If you are unsure what type of plant you have, contact a florist, garden center, or a Master Gardener.”
From the Pet Poison Helpline: “Foxglove, while very beautiful with its trumpet like blossoms, are very poisonous to dogs, cats, and even humans! Foxglove contains naturally-occurring poisons that affect the heart, specifically cardenolides or bufadienolides. These poisons are called cardiac glycoside toxins, and they interfere directly with electrolyte balance within the heart muscle.”
English Ivy isn’t just invasive, it’s also contains an irritant that can cause excessive drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.
Preventing Pet Exposure to Toxic Plants
Pet owners can, with a little research and some care, continue to enjoy their gardens, houseplants, and cut flowers. They just need to exercise some caution. For example, if a dog or cat tends to dig up the flower beds, one can opt for roses or another plant that doesn’t grow from a toxin-containing bulb. Houseplants should be placed up and out of animal reach, and chosen from a list of safe plants. Owners must alert their pet sitter or dog walker to any digging tendencies. All it takes is some care and research to help keep pets safe. View Rover’s full list of poisonous plants to dogs and cats here.
-- guest blog by Rover.com freelance writer Chelsea Alvarez