I recently brought home a pot of wheatgrass for our cat, Earl. This time of year he can’t get to his favorite patch of grass outside for a snack. He immediately buried his face in it, happily chewing on the greenery. Cats eat grass as a dietary supplement to gain folic acid which helps with digestion, blood oxygen levels and overall growth.
Not all houseplants are so cat- or dog-friendly, though. Many cause intestinal, stomach and skin issues or mouth irritation, to name just a few symptoms. Fortunately, they aren’t likely to kill an animal unless they eat a large quantity. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian or the American Society for the Protection of Animals poison control center; https://www.aspca.org/ pet-care/animal- poison-control.
Here are a few common houseplants that can make animals sick:
-Jade plants are popular because they are tolerant of average indoor growing conditions. However, their thick, fleshy leaves can cause vomiting, depression, a slowed heart rate, and a loss of coordination. The jade plant goes by a number of different names including Chinese rubber plant, Japanese rubber plant, baby jade, dwarf rubber plant and jade tree.
-The plants we commonly call lilies are members of several different plant families, but all can cause major issues for dogs and cats. Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) contain oxalate crystals that can cause tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus and result in minor drooling. The true lilies, members of the Liliaceae family, are much more toxic to pets, especially cats. This includes Easter lilies and all garden lilies we have in the house in the winter and spring. The bulbs are particularly toxic but just a nibble of a few leaves can cause issues for the animal. Symptoms include intense vomiting, lethargy and possible kidney failure.
-Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and philodendron (Philodendron) plants are closely related and both make excellent houseplants in low-light situations. Both go by a number of names. The pothos is also known as silk and satin pothos. The philodendron is also known as heartleaf philodendron, horsehead philodendron, cordatum, fruit salad plant, red emerald, saddle leaf, red princess, panda plant, and split-leaf philodendron. When eaten, both plants can cause vomiting, mouth irritation and difficulty swallowing.
-Many of us keep aloe vera plants around to take advantage of the healing properties of its sap on cuts and abrasions. The aloe has very succulent, spiny leaves and thrives in bright, indirect light with intermittent watering. Cats and dogs can experience severe vomiting and have reddish-colored urine if they nibble on the plants.
—Last but not least are the poinsettia plants we still have around the house. Fortunately, the plant is only mildly toxic to cats and dogs. If they do nibble on it they might experience drooling and licking lips; skin irritation including redness, swelling, and itchiness; vomiting; and diarrhea.
Pat Munts is co-author of Northwest Gardener’s Handbook. She can be reached at pat@inland nwgardening.com.
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