Updated: Oct 10, 2021
This topic was THE most requested podcast/blog I received. It is a struggle to sometimes integrate
houseplants with your furry friends because lots of houseplant are toxic if consumed! In this podcast and blog I talk about what "toxic" means, toxic houseplants, non-toxic houseplants, ways to prevent your furry friends from nibbling on your plants and I address all questions I received from followers on Instagram.
THIS PODCAST AND BLOG DOES NOT INCLUDE EVERYTHING. NO MATTER WHAT, PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH WHEN BRINGING A NEW PLANT INTO YOUR HOME.
What does "toxic" mean?
This really depends on the plant you are choosing and your pet! Some plants are considered toxic because they can cause irritation and others are toxic because they can cause death. This could also depend on how it affects your pet which you won't know until it is too late. A plant may cause irritation to one pet but could be much worse for another!
Irritation could be defined as discomfort in their mouth or throat, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. I will go into my detail about this below.
This topic should NOT be taken lightly and you should definitely be doing your research before bringing plants into your home with your furry friends.
Some people (like me) have pets that could not care less about houseplants. Lucky us, right?! But others can't stop their pets from nibbling! If you have pets that like to eat your houseplants, I would avoid ANY toxic plant just to be safe. It isn't worth the potential harm to your pet. If you HAVE to have some toxic houseplants, consider the tips I will list below to help prevent your pet from interacting with your houseplants. Use those methods on your non-toxic houseplants first.
All the details I listed below are provided from ASPCA and/or the Pet Poison Helpline. I also included links to either the ASPCA or Pet Poison Helpline website for each plant if you wanted more information.
Aglaonema: Oral irritation, pain and swelling of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting (not horses), difficulty swallowing.
Aloe Vera: Vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea.
Amaryllis: Vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, tremors.
Anthurium: Oral irritation, pain and swelling of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
Asparagus Fern: Allergic dermatitis with repeated dermal exposure. Berry ingestion could result in gastric upset (vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea).
Begonia: Kidney failure (in grazing animals), vomiting, salivation in dogs/cats. Most toxic part is underground.
Bird of Paradise: Mild nausea, vomiting, drowsiness; caused mainly by fruit and seeds.
Calla Lily: Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
Cordyline: Vomiting (occasionally with blood), depression, anorexia, hypersalivation, dilated pupils (cats).
Crown of Thornes: Irritation to the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and eyes following exposure.
Cyclamen: Salivation, vomiting, diarrhea. Following large ingestions of tubers: heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, death.
Desert Rose: Vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, depression, irregular heart beat, death.
Duranta: I couldn't find a link to ASPCA or Pet Poison Helpline, but North Carolina State Extension says "If eaten, this plant has been known to kill children, pets, and animals."
Easter Lily: Vomiting, inappetence, lethargy, kidney failure, and death is possible. Cats are only species known to be affected.
English Ivy: Vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, diarrhea. Foliage is more toxic than berries.
Ficus: Ingestion, irritation of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract may occur. Dermal irritation is also possible if the sap gets on the pet’s skin.
Gardenia: Mild vomiting and/or diarrhea, hives.
Jade: Vomiting, depression, incoordination.
Kaffir Lily: Vomiting, salvation, diarrhea; large ingestions cause convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors and cardiac arrhythmias. Bulbs are the most poisonous part.
Kalanchoe: Vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm (rare).
Lantana: Vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, weakness. Liver failure - more common in livestock.
Oleander: Clinical signs include cardiovascular signs (e.g., abnormal heart rhythm and rate), electrolyte abnormalities (e.g., a life-threatening high potassium level), gastrointestinal signs (e.g., nausea, drooling, vomiting, etc.), or central nervous system signs (e.g., tremors, seizures). In severe cases, an expensive antidote, digoxin-specific Fab fragments, can be used for severe, life-threatening cases
Peace Lily: Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
Pencil Cactus: Irritating to the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing vomiting, but generally over-rated in toxicity.
Philodendron: Chewing or biting into this plant will release these crystals causing tissue penetration and irritation the mouth and GI tract. VERY rarely, swelling of the upper airway occurs making it difficult to breathe- Podcast.
Sago Palm: Vomiting, melena, icterus, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, coagulopathy, liver damage, liver failure, death.
Schefflera: Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips, tongue, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing.
String of Pearls: I couldn't find a link to ASPCA or Pet Poison Helpline, but University of Wisconsin- Madison Extension says "The leaves are slightly toxic; ingestion may cause vomiting or diarrhea the plant’s sap and may cause skin irritation or rash in sensitive individuals." (Watch out for upcoming podcast for more info!).
Wandering Jewel: Dermatitis
I also included links to the either the ASPCA or Pet Poison Helpline website for some plants if you wanted more information. Some plants were not on either website because they are non-toxic!
Polka Dot Plant: Non-toxic but could still experience mild vomiting and diarrhea.
Ways to prevent your pet from getting to your houseplants:
Before you bring a toxic plant into your household, try these options with non-toxic houseplants just in case the methods don't work for your pet. If your pets insist on munching no matter what you try, it may be safest to purchase houseplants that can't harm them. I know that is hard to hear for a houseplant lover but it's not worth the potential end result.
Deter and Deflect:
Use a pet spray deterrent that tastes bitter but won't harm your pet or your plant!
Dilute lemon, lime, orange or any citrus juice with water and spray directly on the leaves.
General pet boundary training could be the key too! Of course I am not an expert in this but this could be a good solution for the long term.
Put it up high or hang your plants from the ceiling- if you have cats, this won't necessarily help you obviously. But for dogs, this is an easy solution if you have the space for it!
Put your plants in a room that is off limits to your pets.
Try putting your plant in a terrarium, greenhouse, lantern or cage so your plants can't get to them.
Buy Safe Plants:
I've heard people have problems with their cats grazing more than dogs. You could buy plants that your cats would rather eat like Catnip, Catgrass, Lemongrass, Cat Thyme, and Valerian! Lemongrass can be found at almost any garden center in spring and summer!
Dogs don't really graze like cats do so the best solution here would probably be training, distracting toys and deterrents.
I asked followers on my page (@houseplanthomebodyllc) if they had any specific questions I could address in this podcast and blog. I will be doing this for all of the following podcasts and blogs as well! Here are the questions and answers for this topic...
"Can cats and houseplants ever coexist??"
Yes they can! I would try deterrents or distractions first and if that doesn't work, try repositioning your plant to allow your pet to be successful. If this doesn't work, try providing some healthy plants they are allowed to chew on.
"Can animals brush up or touch leaves of "toxic" plants with their body and be okay?"
There aren't many common houseplants that are poisonous just by touching them. Sometimes when you cut a leaf or branch off of a houseplant there is sap that could cause irritation to you or your pet if touched. In this case, I would be cautious. Most of the time part of the plant needs to be ingested for the toxicity to be a problem.
"Do I need to wash my hands after touching leaves/stems of my plants before feeding my pet?"
Do I think you should wash your hands after dealing with your houseplants in general, yes, I do! Do I think you need to, not necessarily. This probably depends on the plants you are dealing with and if you are treating your plants with any sprays or chemicals.
For example, Oleander is one of the most poisonous houseplants out there and even dealing with the stems could cause serious problems. So in that case, you should thoroughly wash your hands.
In other cases, I cannot definitively say you should or shouldn't. Like I discussed in the last question, if you are exposed to the sap inside the stems, leaves, or branches, it may be in you and your pets best interest, to wash your hands.
"Does neem oil effect my pet? Smell or if ingested or if it was on skin still when feeding my pet?"
Neem oil can cause irritation if absorbed in your skin. At least for the product I use which is Bonide's Neem Oil Concentrate. and Their Safety Data Sheet recommends to "avoid all unnecessary exposure." I would actively try not to deeply inhale it either but based on everything I was reading about the product I use, skin contact is the thing to avoid more. No matter what product you are using to treat your houseplants, I would always recommend washing your hands before moving onto anything else. I would make sure to read the label on the products you are using to find the appropriate information as well.
"Ways to keep pets away from plants! Mine are insistent on munching!"
Try the components I listed above- Deter and Deflect, Reposition, or Buy Safe Plants!
"Also cute dog hehehe"
LOL thank you!!!
"How do you get your pets to stop digging in your plants!!"
You can try covering your soil with something harder like pebbles, rocks, tin foil, fabric, burlap, chicken wire, or even pinecones. All of those things would deter your pet from wanting to dig and hopefully they would give up.
"How do I keep my cat from nibbling on every single plant I own!!!"
I would first try spraying a pet deterrent on the leaves or citrus juice mixed with water. If that doesn't work try deflecting to more exciting things. If that STILL doesn't work I would reposition it!
"Are plants that are toxic to pets usually also toxic to humans?"
Its safe to assume that a poisonous houseplant to pets is also poisonous to humans. Some plants have a very similar reaction if ingested by a human or a pet. Others may be worse for pets or worse for humans. It just depends on the plant your are talking about.
If you have a child I would also consider repositioning your houseplants until they are old enough to understand!
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The ASPCA's website is the one I trust the most. If you are ever wondering if a houseplant is toxic or not, check here first. If you Google "houseplant name* toxic to pets", usually the ASPCA is one of the first sites to pop up.
If the ASPCA doesn't pop up, the Pet Poison Helpline should be the next place you search!
If you can't find an answer at either of those places, I trust a University's Horticulture Extension as well!
Always written with extreme plant passion!