Keep a Pet-Safe Garden This Spring

Keep a Pet-Safe Garden This Spring

A woman and her dog prepare to plant a pet-safe garden.A woman and her dog prepare to plant a pet-safe garden.
A woman and her dog prepare to plant a pet-safe garden.A woman and her dog prepare to plant a pet-safe garden.

Table of Contents:

  1. 9 Spring Plants That Could Poison Your Pets
  2. More Toxic Plants to Avoid
  3. Poisonous Gardening Chemicals
  4. 5 Flowers for a Pet-Safe Garden
  5. Keep a Pet-Safe Garden This Spring


For folks with green thumbs, the arrival of spring means it’s high time to get outdoors and get their hands dirty. While the garden is a great place to spend quality time with dogs and outdoor cats, warm spring weather also means a host of potential poisoning risks. Many spring plants and common gardening chemicals are toxic to pets in even minute quantities. Keep pets safe this spring by watching out for hazards like these.

9 Spring Plants That Could Poison Your Pets

These flowers make for an eye-catching garden, but keep an eye on pets around them.

Lilies

Cat owners should be wary of just about any type of lily. Members of both the day lily and true lily families are known to cause kidney failure in cats. A poisoned feline will generally begin vomiting within hours of ingesting lily leaves or pollen and show additional symptoms including lethargy and loss of appetite. Lily of the valley does not affect the kidneys, but contains compounds called cardenolides which can damage a cat’s heart. If you’re displaying a bouquet of lilies indoors, make sure your cat isn’t tempted to lap water from the vase. Lethal poisoning is comparatively rare in dogs.

Azaleas

A few azalea leaves alone can leave dogs and cats suffering from excessive drooling, as well as intestinal symptoms. Without intervention from a veterinarian, pets can quickly fall into comas and die.

Daffodils

One of the spring’s first flowers is also a danger to dogs and cats alike due to toxins like lycorine. Small amounts can cause excessive salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea. Larger doses can lead to seizures, irregular heartbeat, and cause a dog or cat’s blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels.

Crocuses

Both the spring and autumn varieties of the crocus are potentially dangerous to cats and dogs. Side effects from ingesting autumn crocuses tend to be more severe, including damage to the livers, kidney, and bone marrow. Pets who eat springtime crocuses may experience comparatively mild symptoms like gastrointestinal distress.

Sago Palms

A favorite warm-weather plant, the sago palm is often grown indoors in cooler climates. All parts of the plant are toxic, with the seeds packing the highest concentration of toxins. Two seeds are enough to kill a dog or cat after causing depression and seizures.

Tulips

Tip-toeing through the tulips is risky for both dogs and cats. With high amounts of toxic alkaloids, they cause irritation of the mouth and throat. Especially large amounts of these toxins can affect a pet’s heart rate and breathing. If you’re planting tulips this spring, ensure that your pets always keep their distance.

Begonias

A popular and easy-to-grow flower, the begonia’s appealing petals belie the deadly toxins hiding in its underground stem. These can irritate your pet’s mouth, lips, and esophagus, and cause swelling of the tongue.

Hyacinths

The toxic alkaloids in hyacinths cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and tremors in both dogs and cats. In more extreme cases, your pet’s heart rate may rise exponentially and breathing may become labored.

Buttercups

Just a small taste of a buttercup can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and an unsteady gait in pets.

More Toxic Plants to Avoid

Cat and dog owners should keep the following plants and flowers out of their gardens or at least exercise care when pets are joining in on the springtime fun.

  • Foxglove
  • Japanese Yew
  • Jerusalem Cherry
  • Morning Glory
  • Nightshade
  • Oleander
  • Trumpet vine

Poisonous Gardening Chemicals

It’s not just plants that spell trouble for pets when springtime comes around.

Fertilizers

Many of the ingredients that make fertilizer effective also make it dangerous to pets. Dog owners should exercise particular care around products including blood and bone meal. Flash-frozen blood and bone make for excellent plant food and they’re often enticing to hungry pups. High quantities of blood meal can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in small doses and pancreatic inflammation in larger amounts. The high levels of iron found in fortified blood meal could even lead to poisoning through iron toxicity.

Bone meal may please your dog’s palate, but farther down the digestive tract, it can harden to form an indigestible, cement-like ball. These balls often need to be removed surgically.

Other fertilizers — particularly those used to grow roses — may contain poisonous compounds known as organophosphates. Just a teaspoon of certain organophosphates could kill a mid-sized dog or cat.

Pesticides and Insecticides

Anti-pest chemicals aren’t just hazardous to pests. Large quantities can sicken and kill pets too, particularly if your brand of choice includes organophosphates. Pet owners can maintain a garden that’s safe for both pets and the environment by opting for all-natural alternatives to chemical repellents. A simple solution of soap and water may be sufficient to keep bugs at bay without introducing potential health hazards to your pet’s environment.

5 Flowers for a Pet-Safe Garden

Pet owners have plenty of options for planting a picturesque and pet-safe spring garden. Liven up your front or backyard with one of these plants this year.

Marigolds

Beautiful marigolds have natural pest-fighting powers to keep your garden free from pesky insects. Don’t worry about your hungry pet taking a bite. The marigold’s colorful buds are not toxic to cats or dogs.

Snapdragons

Adding a pop of color to any garden, snapdragons stand up to cool temperatures. Its petals, stems, and seeds are all safe for canine and feline consumption.

African Violets

Grown indoors, African violets can bloom all year round. The colorful, fuzzy petals are appealing to look at and don’t present any pet health hazards.

Grape Hyacinths

Unlike other members of the lily family, pretty grape hyacinths aren’t hazardous to curious cats and dogs who might sneak a bite or dig in flower beds.

Nasturtium

Possessing a distinct spicy flavor, nasturtium is safe to eat and generally simple to grow in poor soil. Gardeners who are wary of using expensive or potentially toxic fertilizer will especially appreciate how quickly and easily they can plant these flowers.

Planting a Pet-Safe Garden

If you’re especially passionate about any toxic spring plants, take care to fence off potential dangers to keep them far from prying paws. After gardening, make sure to carefully and thoroughly wash your hands to avoid exposing pets to any lingering toxins. In the event that your dog or cat ingests something poisonous, decisive action could make the difference in saving their life. Watch out for warning signs like drooling, vomiting, and behavioral changes and be ready to contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center.

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