Keeping Your Pet Safe in The Garden

With spring just around the corner comes an increase in outdoor activities, one of those being gardening. You may be spending your day dreaming of plant combinations you

Cyclamen are toxic to pets

can use to enhance your landscape. However, besides beauty and functionality, we have to think about our four-legged family members who search for adventure in our lawns and gardens. There are some important things to consider when landscaping if you have pets.

Choose your plants wisely. Toxicity levels vary in different plants and cause different reactions that can be mild to quite serious (even deadly). Before you shop for plants, check the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants website. Also, avoid planting thorny and spiny plants, which can cause serious eye injuries. In addition, beware of wild mushrooms in your yard. Many wild mushrooms produce aflatoxins, which can be fatal if ingested by dogs; if mushrooms appear, dig and dispose of them immediately.

Here are a few common plants that are poisonous to animals.

Daffodil-These flowers contain a chemical compound that triggers vomiting. Ingestion of the bulb or any part of the plant can cause, in addition to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, heart rhythm abnormalities and respiratory depression.

Tulip and Hyacinth – Compounds in tulips and hyacinths can cause profuse drooling, vomiting and diarrhea — leading to dehydration and additional problems.  All parts of the plant are toxic, but the lactones and alkaloids are concentrated in the bulbs, so make sure that your dog isn’t digging up the bulbs!

Lily –Some lilies (Peace, Peruvian and Calla) contain oxalate crystals that cause minor signs of toxicity, and true lilies (Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies) can be fatal. Cats are especially sensitive to lily poisoning, so be very careful to keep your cats away from lilies of any kind, including the Amaryllis, Easter lilies and Stargazer lilies popular around holidays.

Lily of the Valley –These plants contain sugars that affect how the cardiac muscle contracts. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased heart rate, heart rhythm abnormalities and possibly seizures.

Crocus –Both the spring and fall blooming varieties are toxic. These plants can cause vomiting and diarrhea when ingested.

Chrysanthemum (including Daisies) – The chemical compounds lactones and pyrethrins as well as other potential irritants in the plant can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and affect the nervous system. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, increased salivation and incoordination.

Many lilies are toxic to pets

Cyclamen –The tubers or rhizomes contain the toxic glycoside cyclanin, which can destroy red blood cells. Ingestion can cause salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, refusal to eat, seizures and heart rhythm abnormalities.

Rhododendron –Resins bind to and modify sodium channels, which allows calcium movement into cells and can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and refusal to

eat. The leaves are the most toxic, but all parts of the plant, including trimmings, are toxic.

Cycad (such as Sago palm) – Sago palm is a member of the cycad family.  All cycads are mildly to very toxic so should not be ingested by pets or children.  The toxic compounds cause vomiting and liver toxicity.

Other Things to Consider


Mulch has many beneficial properties, such as moisture retention, weed suppression, and beautification. However, certain mulches can cause reactions in your animals. Cocoa bean mulch is particularly toxic to dogs and is best to be avoided in the garden. Rubber mulch claims to be chemical free, but plastic is far from a natural substance. Also, some wood mulches may contain color dyes to which your animals may be sensitive. Use natural wood mulches as a safer choice for your animals but always keep an eye on your pets around mulch, especially if they like to chew.


Most fertilizers only cause gastrointestinal irritation when consumed, but there are some products that are more toxic.

Blood meal: If ingested this can cause vomiting, diarrhea and severe inflammation of the pancreas due to its high nitrogen content. Some types are also fortified with iron, which can result in iron overload, which is toxic.

Bone meal: This is what makes fertilizer so desirable to dogs. When consumed in large amounts, this forms a large bowling ball of cement-like consistency in the stomach that can block the gastrointestinal tract and require surgery to remove.

Rose and plant fertilizers: Some of these contain organophosphates which can cause buildup of a neurotransmitter that overstimulates certain receptors and is highly toxic to dogs in very small amounts.

Be aware of toxic risks. Remember, many things that are not desirable to people are readily ingested by dogs and cats. Learn to identify problematic plants and symptoms of toxicity.

Reduce access to plants. Consider the ability of the animal to jump and dig when making sure toxic substances aren’t accessible. For example, placing a house plant on top of a bookshelf may not be sufficient if there are cats that like to jump up onto high shelves.  Covering fertilizer areas with mulch may not be sufficient because dogs can dig and find the fertilizer or bulbs buried beneath. Always err on the side of caution when determining which plants to bring into the house or plant in the yard!

If you suspect your pet has ingested any of the following plants, call your veterinarian immediately or the APCC 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

If you have a gardening related question, you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found at:

Information for this article was taken from the UC Davis One Health Blog, 10 Garden Plants That Are Toxic to Pets.

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