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Are Your Plants Pet Friendly?

by Laura Crotch-Harvey MSc BSc (Hons)

Did you know that a lot of garden plants are toxic to dogs and cats? Before you head to the garden centre to pick out your perfect Pinterest-worthy plants, it’s worth knowing which ones might pose a hazard to your pet. Here’s our ultimate guide to plant shopping for pet parents.

Houseplants and Pets

At Burns, we’ve been hearing a lot about the increase in people getting pets during the last year, but did you know there has also been a massive boom in people buying houseplants too? We’ve all been spending more time inside and houseplants are an amazing way to bring a little bit of the outdoors in. They’ve also been found to have mood boosting benefits. Not to mention, if you can keep one alive for long enough, they can make your home look amazing! It’s clear that houseplants have great benefits, but how do you know which plants are pet safe?

Which Houseplants are Safe for Pets?

Nutrition manager, Laura and her dog, Amber have an extensive collection of houseplants, but luckily Amber hasn’t taken much of an interest in the houseplants. Some pets, however, are a little more curious, and if you have a particularly toxic houseplant, their curiosity can spell disaster. Fortunately, many websites have ‘pet friendly houseplants’ sections, but if in doubt, your local plant shop or garden centre should also be able to advise you.

Here are some of Laura’s favourites:

  • White Star (Calathea Majestica) – this is also known as the prayer plant because its leaves fold up overnight. There are many different types with different leaves, and they are nontoxic and safe for pets.
  • String Of Hearts (Ceropegia) – this is a trailing vining plant that is non It’s a great one to put on a shelf.
  • Ponytail Palm (Beucarnea Recurvata) – another non-toxic plant which comes in a variety of sizes. I have a tiny one, but they can grow up to 20 feet! These are really easy to look after as they store water in their trunk, so I just water it when it looks like it needs plumping up!
  • Fishbone cactus (Epiphyllym Anguliger) – this is one of our newer plants, but one that has grown a lot already. They are fun to watch grow as they develop their zigzag ‘fishbone’ leaves and are nontoxic to pets.

Top (left to right)- Ponytail Palm, String of Hearts, Terrarium, Bottom- Calathea Whitestar, Fishbone Cactus, Amber the Staffy, Calathea Whitestar

Which indoor plants are toxic for cats and dogs?

It’s great to know which plants can bloom in harmony with our doggos and kittys, but which plants pose a health hazard? Here’s Laura’s list of plants that are toxic to our pets:

  • Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera Deliciosa) – this is a favourite houseplant by many people as it is easy to care for and has lovely big leaves. Unfortunately, if eaten by a dog or particularly a cat, it can be toxic and lead to swelling of the mouth as well as vomiting.
  • Velvet Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron Micans) – these hanging plants are also very popular thanks to their beautiful, heart-shaped leaves. However, they can cause various health problems if ingested.
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria)– Known for being one of the easiest plants to care for, as it ‘thrives on neglect,’ it can also be mildly poisonous to pets, so it’s best to keep out of their reach.
  • ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifloia)– Also known for being great for beginners, this common houseplant is also considered to be toxic to pets.

How do I protect my indoor plants from pets?

We’ve talked about keeping your pet safe from your houseplants, but we also need to keep our plants safe from our pets! Some pets will try to chew the plant or knock it over, so here are Laura’s top tips for keeping cats and dogs away from your plants.

  1. Shelves

If you have a dog, keeping a plant on a shelf that is out of reach is an easy way to make sure they are both living happily together. This isn’t quite as easy when you have cats, but a wall or ceiling-mounted plant hanger may be useful in this case.

  1. Terrariums

These are a great way to keep your plants away from you pets as they will be in a glass enclosure. Terrariums are complete, enclosed small plant ecosystems that can actually make the plant growing experience easier! They look lovely too!

  1. Window ledges

Amber spends most of the day wanting to sit on a window ledge to see out of the window, so I avoid putting plants in these areas, so she doesn’t knock them off when she tries to chase off a cat! However, if your pet doesn’t spend a lot of time on the window ledges in your home, this could be a good option.

  1. Heavier Planters

Heavier planters can help to prevent them being easily knocked over, especially if you have an excited Staffy doing ‘zoomies’ which often happens in our house!

  1. Regular Pruning

Regularly pruning plants is a great way to keep them out of the way of your pets. This may be particularly important with hanging plants as they start to grow within their reach.

How Do I Create a Pet Friendly Garden?

Your garden is another place your pet might love to explore, but it too might contain plants that are toxic to our dogs or cats. Even if your pet doesn’t appear to be interested in the plants in your garden, we should be aware of any potential hazards. Burns nutritional advisor and gardening enthusiast, Karen, guides us through her pet-friendly garden.

Photo: Oleander or Dogbane

Are a lot of plants dangerous?

It is surprising how many common garden plants can be harmful for dogs and cats. Most of them would need to be eaten in large quantities, so are unlikely to be problematic, others may just result in mild symptoms or an upset tummy for a day or two. Some are more of an irritant causing rashes or swelling.

What plants should you avoid having in your garden?

Some of the most popular garden plants can be fatal, so it’s important to know which plants to stay away from if you have pets.

  1. Elephant ears or Bergenia

These plants can cause swelling in the mouth which can be life threatening to pets if the airway becomes blocked.

  1. Aconitum (Wolf’s bane)

More commonly known as Monkshood, this plant is probably one of the most dangerous (and attractive) plant in our gardens. All parts are poisonous, the root was used historically to kill wolves, hence the name.

  • Rhododendrons

All parts of a rhododendron bush, including the leaves, are toxic to both cats and dogs. Only a small amount is needed to cause huge upset in our dogs and cats, such as nausea, vomiting and even difficulty breathing.

  • Azaleas

Azaleas are beautiful plants that feature in many of our homes and gardens, but they are considered poisonous to our dogs and cats.

  • Castor Bean Plant

A unique plant responsible for producing ‘caster oil.’ Unfortunately, its highly toxic for dogs, cats and even horses. The beans and seeds are particularly dangerous, and can be lethal if even an ounce is consumed.

  • Oleander (Dogbane)

Commonly used in landscaping, these beautiful plants are toxic for all mammals. Ingestion of any part of this plant can lead to terrifying consequences for our pets.

  • Yew

This common evergreen plant is extremely poisonous to all species. Ingesting any part of the English yew plant can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, and can even lead to death.

  • Delphiniums

Commonly known as larkspur, this beautiful, tall, flowering plant can be fatal if ingested in large amounts. However, for smaller, and younger pets, it can also prove fatal if only a small amount is ingested.

Photo: Wolfsbane

Which Wild Plants are Poisonous to Our Pets?

Some wild plants can also prove fatal for our pets. Wild plants such as well as Deadly Nightshade and Ragwort, for example, can cause irreversible kidney and liver damage when ingested.

Photo: Nightshade

How will you know if your pet has eaten a toxic plant?

There are no typical symptoms, so it’s important to stay vigilant if you suspect your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t. Symptoms can include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • drooling
  • seizures

If you suspect your pet has eaten something and is showing unusual signs or behaviour seek veterinary help ASAP, taking the suspect plant with you if possible.

Are All Parts of the Plant Toxic to Pets?

Not all parts of the plants may be toxic. It might only be the fruit, roots, bark or even the stem, but it is best to assume the whole plant is poisonous. Even our vegetable plots may contain plants with parts that are harmful. Apricot kernels contain cyanide, Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid and can be fatal if eaten in quantity.

Burns’s Top Tip: Pay attention to plant names. Often the name of the plant gives us a clue, for example, Deadly Nightshade, Wolfsbane and Dogbane, are all part of the Latin name ‘Apocynum’ means ‘away dog’.

There are plenty of plants that are safe to have in your garden and home and they can even provide enrichment for your pets, but it’s always advisable to do your research before you shop.

Remember, if you feel as though your dog or cat has eaten a toxic plant, call your vet immediately. For advice and information on nutrition, contact our nutritional advice team for free today.

by Laura Crotch-Harvey MSc BSc (Hons)

I've worked at Burns since 2015 and head up a busy, dedicated team of pet nutritionists at our Kidwelly head office. No two days are ever the same. We are often busy going the extra mile for our customers and offer free advice via LiveChat, telephone and email.