Are Toxic Plants Lurking in Your Backyard?

When many pet owners think of potential toxins, their focus is usually on the dangers within their homes. However, many dangers could be lurking in your backyard. From colorful flowers to shrubs and trees, there are a variety of plants that are toxic to pets.

This article will discuss some of the most common toxic outdoor plants and the symptoms associated with toxicity. We will also discuss what to do if your pet consumes a poisonous plant, the potential treatment options, and how to help keep your pet safe.

Most Common Toxic Backyard Plants and Their Symptoms

While there are hundreds of potentially toxic plants, here are a few of the most common plants that may be putting your pet in danger.

1. Daffodils

While daffodils may be a beautiful addition to your garden, they can harm your pet. The flowers contain an alkaloid toxin known as lycorine. This toxin is primarily found in the plant’s bulb and is known to cause severe tissue irritation and vomiting.

Pets who consume daffodils may experience excessive drooling and gastrointestinal upset. Lycorine can also cause increased heart rate and cardiac arrhythmias. In severe cases, pets may experience hypotension, depression, and seizures.

2. Foxgloves

Foxgloves are a tall biennial plant known for their vibrant tubular flowers. However, these flowers contain cardiac glycosides that are highly toxic to pets. Ingestion of any part of the plant can lead to abnormal heart rate, cardiac arrhythmia, tremors, and even collapse. In severe cases, ingestion can cause cardiac failure and death.

3. Hyacinths

Hyacinths are perennial bulbs that are commonly planted in the fall. Like daffodils, the toxins in hyacinths are concentrated in the plant’s bulb. Hyacinth bulbs contain toxic alkaloids that cause tissue irritation and vomiting.

Pets who dig up and consume these bulbs may experience excessive drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal pain. Ingestion of large amounts of the toxin can cause increased heart rate and abnormal respiratory rate.

4. Hydrangea

Hydrangeas are known for their large blooms and come in various colors. Unfortunately, these plants contain cyanogenic glycosides that can cause gastrointestinal upset in your pet. Pets who ingest the flowers or leaves of this plant may experience lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea.

5. Lilies

Lilies are one of the most commonly discussed toxic plants to pets. There are many different types of lilies, and toxicity is variable among species. Lilies of the true lily and day lily families are considered the most toxic. All parts of these lilies are harmful, including the pollen.

Cats exposed to the toxin are at high risk of developing kidney failure, and lily exposure can be fatal. However, dogs are less susceptible to severe toxicity and are more likely to show symptoms of gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea.

6. Sago Palm

Sago plans are a popular outdoor shrub in warmer climates and a common house plant. Unfortunately, Sago Palms contain cycasin which is highly toxic to pets. Ingestion of cycasin can cause severe liver failure and is often fatal.

Symptoms of Sago Palm toxicity occur very quickly and include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. As time passes, pets may experience ataxia and seizures. Severe liver failure occurs within 2-3 days of ingestion. Signs of liver failure include abdominal pain, lethargy, inappetence, and jaundice.

7. Rhododendron

Rhododendrons are a family of plant species commonly found in backyard landscapes. Members of the Rhododendron family include shrubs like the popular Azalea plant. The toxicity of a rhododendron plant will depend on the specific species. However, all Rhododendron species should be considered potentially harmful. The toxic component of the plant is known as grayanotoxin. This toxin disrupts the sodium channels in your pet’s body and can affect both skeletal and cardiac muscle function.

The most common symptoms associated with Rhododendron poisoning include gastrointestinal upset, drooling, muscle weakness, abnormal heart rate, depression, and seizures.

8. Tulips

Like hyacinths and daffodils, tulips are flowers whose toxins are concentrated in the bulb. Tulip bulbs contain several toxins, including Tulipalin A and B. These toxins are also known as allergenic lactones and can cause excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and depression. If large amounts of tulips are consumed, pets may experience increased heart rate, abnormal respiratory rate, and difficulty breathing. Cat Tulips

Other Backyard Dangers

While the above plants are some of the most common toxicities pet owners encounter, there are other potential dangers in your backyard. Below are a few things you should consider when evaluating the safety of your yard.

• Vegetable Gardens

While some of the plants in a vegetable garden may be healthy, others can put your pet at risk. Vegetables of the allium family, including onions, chives, and garlic, can cause digestive upset and damage to your pet’s red blood cells. Other vegetables such as rhubarb and unripe tomatoes can also cause problems for your pet. If you have a vegetable garden in your backyard, consider placing a fence around it to keep your pet out of harm’s way.

• Mushrooms

Mushrooms thrive in warm, wet environments and can be extremely dangerous for pets. While some mushrooms are only mildly toxic, others can be fatal. It is critical to inspect your yard frequently for mushroom growth and immediately remove any mushrooms found.

• Trees

Trees are a commonly overlooked group of toxic plants. Fruit trees and nut trees pose the most significant risk to pets and contain a wide variety of toxins. Not only is it essential to keep your pet away from toxic trees, but it is also critical to prevent them from eating any of the fruits, nuts, or acorns that fall from the trees.

Treatment for Toxic Plant Poisoning

If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is critical to seek veterinary care immediately. If you witness your pet consume the plant, remove as much plant material from their mouth as possible and secure a sample of the plant to take to your veterinarian. Cat Daffodils can help your veterinarian determine the appropriate treatment for your pet.

Treatment of toxic plant ingestion begins with the elimination of the toxin. This may include induction of vomiting, administration of activated charcoal, or gastric lavage. In addition to removing the toxin, these treatments also help reduce toxin absorption in the digestive tract. These treatments are time-sensitive and most effective when administered within the first 1-2 hours of ingestion. Your veterinarian may also recommend IV fluid therapy to dilute the toxin in your pet’s system.

In some cases of plant poisoning, your pet may require additional supportive care and hospitalization. Your veterinarian will perform blood work to monitor your pet’s organ function. This is especially important in older patients or patients with known liver or kidney disease. Other supportive care measures include the use of medications to control seizures, pain, or cardiac arrhythmias caused by the toxin. If the toxin has caused difficulty breathing, your veterinarian may place your pet on oxygen.

Your pet will remain hospitalized until they are stable and showing signs of improvement. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend follow-up appointments to ensure your pet is recovering appropriately.

Preventing Toxic Plant Poisoning

The best way to prevent plant poisoning is to remove all toxic plants from your yard. You can start this process by identifying each plant your pet has access to. At Chivelab, our mission is to help you understand and identify toxins that could be harmful to your pet. You can use our app to take a picture of your plants and determine which plants pose a potential risk. Our app is also a great resource when considering new plants for your yard.


Pets can encounter toxic substances in a wide variety of places, including your backyard. The effects of plant toxicity can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening illnesses. Because of this, it is essential to seek professional care if you suspect your pet has come into contact with a toxic plant. Although this article highlights some of the most common toxic backyard plants, keep in mind that many plants can be dangerous for your pet. We hope this information will serve as a useful guide and help you create a safe yard for your pet.

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