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Common houseplants that are toxic to pets

19 February 2021

 

With over 21,000 species of plants native to South Africa, it’s no surprise that we’re a nation of gardeners, and 2020 was a big year for everyone with green thumbs!

With the pandemic keeping the country homebound throughout the year, houseplants became many peoples’ only link to nature during lockdown – and the trend has no intention of slowing down.

But before you shop the next Pintrest-perfect plant, take a moment to check whether your flora could harm your furry family; some plants that have no harmful effects on humans (and are even purposely ingested) can be deadly to little critters.

Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)


The Fiddle Leaf Fig is undoubtedly the Instagram-star of the list – even the New York Times referred to it as the “it” plant of the design world. With its dramatic violin-shaped leaves and ability to grow up to 12m tall, it’s easy to see why. Unfortunately, this famous flora isn’t friendly to your fur-family, no matter how glamorous it looks.

Signs to look out for:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Skin irritation
  • Gastrointestinal irritation
  • Oral irritation

Monstera Deliciosa

Second in online popularity only to the Fiddle Leaf Fig, these trendy tropical giants contain insoluble calcium oxalates, which makes the plant mildly toxic to humans and highly toxic to dogs and cats.

Signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting

Mother in Law’s Tongue (Sanseveria)

Mother in Law’s Tongue (also known as Snake Plant) is one of the world’s most popular home and office plants due to its low-maintenance care needs – but this plant contains a toxin called Saponins, which affects gastrointestinal activity if ingested.

Signs to look out for:

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is prized for the antiseptic gel inside its leaves and is often used for sunburns or skin conditions. Sometimes, the juice is even ingested for hydration, constipation, and heartburn relief! Despite its healing properties for humans, it’s considered mildly to highly poisonous for cats and dogs.

Signs to look out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Tremors
  • Change in urine colour

Cannabis (Marijuana)

According to Paula Parker, an emergency vet and president of the Australian Veterinary Association, cannabis poisoning is one of the most common types of poisoning vets see, especially in dogs. While the effects of CBD (one of the compounds in cannabis) is being studied for use in animals, pets should never have access to cannabis plants.

Signs to look out for:

  • Incoordination
  • Tremors
  • Drooling
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory problems
  • Depression
  • Coma

String of Pearls (Senecio Rowleyanus)

 

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This succulent is native to South Africa and has become popular for its delicate beaded strings and low water needs, but make sure to keep it out of reach of your furry friends! Not only is it poisonous when ingested, sap from the beads can also cause skin irritation in animals and humans.

Signs to look out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy

What to do if your pet has been poisoned

While ingesting a toxic plant won’t necessarily be deadly for your pet, it’s vital that you act quickly – as they metabolise the toxic material, their condition may worsen even if they seem perfectly fine to begin with.

  • DO stay calm and clear-headed.
  • DO call your vet’s emergency number.
  • DO clip a sample of the plant to show the vet.
  • DON’T induce vomiting unless instructed by the vet.
  • DON’T use ipecac or salt unless advised by your vet, these are old-fashioned approaches that could have bad side effects.

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Sources

  • https://wagwalking.com/condition/mother-in-laws-tongue-poisoning
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/aloe-vera-juice-benefits#benefits-of-aloe-vera-juice
  • https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/common-poisonous-plants-to-dogs-and-cats
  • https://succulentplantcare.com/8-succulent-plants-toxic-to-pets/
  • https://www.thesprucepets.com/toxic-plants-for-puppy-dogs-2804773