Popular houseplants that pose a deadly danger to pets

It was some kind of strange walk that alerted Merry’s owners that something was seriously wrong with their cat.

The few times she’d vomited earlier in the day hadn’t worried them too much, but later that evening the way she’d stumbled uncoordinated across the living room had raised alarm bells.

“We actually thought she had a stroke or something was wrong with her brain,” Suzanne says of the indoor cat she adopted from the SPCA nearly 20 years ago. two years.

“The last thing we suspected was a fucking plant.”

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Peace lilies may be beautiful, but they're deadly dangerous to cats.


Peace lilies may be beautiful, but they’re deadly dangerous to cats.

Pets and plants have long been important members of many New Zealand homes, but the two don’t always live in harmony.

And just as the pandemic and Instagram have seen the popularity of houseplants — and their prices — skyrocket, experts are warning that our green friends can pose a deadly danger to our furry pets.

Hayley Hunt, a veterinary pathologist at Massey University, says plant poisoning is generally less common than that caused by rat bait, snail bait or chocolate toxicity, although cases may go unreported or underdiagnosed because the signs can be subtle.

Essentially, the problem is that some plants contain toxins that, when consumed, can cause a wide range of problems, from mild mouth irritation to gastrointestinal problems, and even life-threatening damage.

Of these, Hunt says true lilies pose the most dangerous risks to cats.

“A few hours after eating lily leaves or flowers, licking pollen, or even drinking the water the flowers are in, cats can lose their appetite, become lethargic, and vomit.

“These types of lilies also damage the kidneys, and within 12 to 24 hours cats can become very ill and may begin to drink and urinate more. In severe cases, this can lead to kidney failure and be fatal.

Snake plants can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.


Snake plants can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.

Signs of severe poisoning may include vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes with blood), drowsiness, weakness, and seizures. The toxin in sago palms causes liver damage that can lead to bruising and/or abnormal bleeding and yellow discoloration of the eyes and/or gums.

Suzanne doesn’t want to use her last name, fearing she’ll be called a “bad cat owner”. She worries sometimes, because while she’ll never be entirely sure what poisoned Merry a year ago, one of her beloved houseplants was the most likely culprit. That’s what the vet suspected and treated, and most importantly the cat survived.

The vet’s bill came to nearly $1,500, and the episode prompted Suzanne to get rid of almost all of her houseplants. prevention is better than cure, she says.

Kerri Murray of Southern Cross Pet Insurance has led a crusade on the danger certain plants, and lilies in particular, pose to pets.

“Lilies are the worst thing you can have around a cat; not only is the plant poisonous, but so is the water in the vase.

A former veterinary nurse, Murray says the company recently paid $1,400 for an animal poisoned by a lily, and she goes so far as to advise pet owners to discard the plants.

The popular monstera can cause severe burning and mouth irritation in pets.


The popular monstera can cause severe burning and mouth irritation in pets.

“The leaves are falling all the time and all the cat has to do is rub against them and that’s enough to cause trouble. Just don’t have them; they’re so dangerous.

Southern Cross pays about $500,000 a year in vet bills for pets that have eaten something they shouldn’t, and while plant poisoning isn’t as common as things like meat bait slugs, this is something that happens more often.

And when it does, it’s an emergency. In severe cases, intravenous fluids are used over a long period to flush the animal’s system and blood tests are done to monitor kidney function.

“No questions asked, go straight to the vet.”

It’s advice Hunt strongly agrees with, saying that if you see or suspect your pet has eaten a poisonous plant, the best thing to do is contact your veterinarian.

“With plants that can have serious effects like lilies, don’t wait to see if your cat gets sick because seeing a vet early can make a big difference in the outcome.”

If owners notice a pet chewing on a leaf or flower, they can try to remove it from their mouth and encourage them to drink water to rinse their mouth out. The water from canned tuna or chicken can sometimes entice cats to drink, she says.

Aloe vera can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.

Inga Tihonova/123RF

Aloe vera can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.

Small amounts of milk or yogurt can help soothe mouth irritation, but it is important that owners do not try to induce a pet to vomit.

Hunt also warns that it’s not just legal plants that can harm pets. Cannabis toxicity is also common in dogs, although this is often because they have eaten something with it, rather than the plant itself.

Ten poisonous houseplants to avoid if you have pets

Oleander (nerium oleander). Pink-flowered and fragrant, this shrub is extremely toxic to humans and pets. Oleander can cause serious illness or even death if ingested.

Lily (lily). The air-purifying qualities of peace lilies make the plant popular, but it’s best avoided for households with pets, especially cats. All members of the lily family are highly toxic to cats and can cause organ failure. Also beware of bouquets that contain it.

Philodendrons. Native to the jungles of Central and South America, these plants are toxic to cats and dogs if eaten, causing swelling in the mouth and vomiting.

Monstera deliciosa: Very popular, these types are also toxic to cats and dogs. The popular ‘Swiss Cheese’ plant can cause severe burning and mouth irritation in pets.

Aloe vera. Often used as a traditional herbal remedy for humans, this succulent has a mild to moderate level of toxicity for dogs and cats. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea and tremors if consumed.

Snake plants (dracaena trifasciata). Also called mother-in-law’s tongue, this hardy houseplant should be kept away from pets. It can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.

ficus. Including the very popular fiddle leaf fig and rubber tree, this group of plants contain insoluble calcium oxalates which can cause mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing if eaten. .

Jade plants (crassula ovata). These types are also known as money plants, which you will need if your pet eats them. Although it’s unclear exactly what makes jade plants so bad for animals, they can cause vomiting, depression, and incoordination if eaten.

Madagascar dragon tree (dracaena marginata). This plant contains saponins, a toxic compound that can make animals sick. If ingested, it can cause vomiting (sometimes with blood) and drooling in cats and dogs. Cats can also suffer from dilated pupils if they have nibbled on a dragon tree. Yucca, a similar looking tree, also contains saponins.

Sago palm (cycas revoluta). Sago is not really a palm, but a cycad that can be fatally toxic to dogs due to a toxin called cycasin. This causes abdominal pain, seizures, coma and liver failure. In Australia, sago palm is one of the most reported dog poisonings by Animal Poisons Helpline.