We all enjoy plants and flowers, whether in containers in our house or in our garden. We enjoy the bright colors and fragrance they give. We also enjoy our pets and the joy of their companionship and activity. Our pets and plants can coexist nicely with a few precautions.

A few years ago, my young Bichon puppy, then weighing only about 2 pounds had acute onset vomiting and then marked lethargy. I found out that she had been playfully chewing on juniper berries in our backyard. She required critical care and fluids by our veterinarian but luckily survived. Then my mischievous cat likes to sneak out and chew on liriope but has no ill effects.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ website, aspca.org, lists more than 700 plants that have been identified as poisonous to pets, meaning that they may produce physiological active or toxic substances in sufficient amounts to cause harmful effects in certain animals. Poisonous plants may cause reactions on a spectrum ranging from mild nausea to death. Certain animal species may have a peculiar vulnerability to a potentially poisonous plant. Cats for instance may be poisoned by ingesting any part of a lily.

Some plants have been reported as having systemic effects on animal and/or intense effects on the gastrointestinal tract. The ASPCA website also lists an equal number of plants that are considered non-toxic to pets. But be aware that consumption of any plant material may cause vomiting or gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats.

The pet poison hotline identifies the top 10 plants that are poisonous to pets as:

n Autumn crocus

n Azaleas

n Cyclamen (roots are especially dangerous)

n Lilies (some dangerous, some benign)

n Oleander

n Dieffenbachia

n Daffodils

n Sago palm

n Tulips

n Hyacinths

The ASPCA website has detailed lists of what has been found toxic to certain pets and what has been found safe.

So, should one worry about keeping houseplants in your home due to toxic potential of some plant species? Well, most of us learned to childproof our homes so that the children remained safe. Most of our dogs and cats would have zero interest in chewing on or ingesting any plant material, but just in case we have mischievous pets, some awareness of what may be toxic could be helpful and prevent a trip to the veterinarian. For many of us, plants and pets are dear and can coexist nicely with minor precautions and modifications.

The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

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