Parks Department

These Plants Can Hurt Your Pets!

We all know to teach our children not to put things in their mouths but its a little harder to teach your pet not eat something. Below is a letter from a sad pet owner who didn't know that her pet could die from eating a plant, followed by a list of plants that can cause illness or death in pets.

Letter to the Editor*

The importance of knowing what you sell:
I'm writing on behalf of my family, who recently experienced the death of our 4-year-old cat, Ali. As many people feel about their own pets, we believed she was the best. We loved her very much.

My family had planned a spring trip, but we felt uneasy leaving Ali at home by herself, as she hadn't been eating for a few days. We called our vet's office, explaining that wed seen Ali nibbling at an Easter lily, after which her appetite had diminished. The vet's office told us lilies can be highly toxic to cats, and that we should bring her in immediately. After running some tests, they determined her kidneys had failed, and there was no hope for regeneration. We brought Ali home, and she died two days later.

We were shocked to find that the Easter lily, along with the day lily and tiger lily, can be toxic to cats. What was even more shocking was that the stores had no signs posted, nor did the plants have a tag that stated they were potentially harmful. We talked to the florist and store manager at the store where we bought the lily; they had no idea that the plant was harmful. They gave me the name of the company that orders plants for the store, which connected me with a Canadian supplier - they also were unaware of the dangers of the plant. This may be the case, but I doubt a company that large truly is uneducated about their plants and the threat of toxicity they pose to certain animals.

How hard would it have been for the plant distributors to put a tag on the plant or send a flyer with the shipment, informing the retailer that the plant was potentially harmful? That is all that I ask of anyone who is selling lilies. I feel very strongly about this issue, and I would appreciate the help of others to assist me in educating growers, consumers and retailers.

Nikki Kincaid
Westerville, Ohio

Additional Plant Warnings

The listed plants have the potential to cause health problems in pets:

  • Heart-related problems:
    Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) Nerium oleander (oleander) Rhododendron sp. (rhododendron, azalea and rosebay) Taxus sp. (American, Japanese, English and Western yew) Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) Kalanchoe sp. (kalanchoe)

  • Kidney failure:
    Certain species of lily (in cats only) Rheum sp. (rhubarb)

  • Liver failure:
    Cycad sp. (cycads) Amanita phalloides (mushroom)

Some plants contain calcium oxalate crystals in their cells. If the plant material is ingested, the crystals can cause intense burning and oral irritation. Clinical signs seen from ingesting these plants include difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, drooling and loss of appetite. The following plants contain calcium oxalate crystals: Dieffenbachia (dumb cane), philodendron, pothos, peace lily, schefflera.

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* Reprinted with permission by Green Profit Magazine.
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