While most of us are glad to see the arrival of Spring, the new season can bring some dangers for our canine friends. Many plants which are a staple of parks and gardens in spring are toxic to dogs, and some can even be fatal if an unlucky dog consumes enough of them. This means it is important that owners watch out for any poisonous plants which can be a threat to their dogs’ health.
Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at the video vet service FirstVet, offers her advice on the plants you should watch out for on Spring walks, how to spot plant signs of poisoning and what to do if your dog has eaten something hazardous from the garden.
Daffodils are a popular symbol of the season, but dog owners should make sure to be wary if they come across any with their canine. Lycorine, the toxin found in daffodils, causes vomiting, as well as other symptoms such as drooling, diarrhoea and wobbliness. Daffodil bulbs also contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can lead to skin irritation if dogs come into contact with them. In large amounts, daffodils can cause damage to the liver if eaten, and ingesting them may be fatal. It is safest for owners to avoid keeping daffodils anywhere dogs can reach them and to steer clear of the plant on walks.
Tulips contain the toxin Tuliposide A, which is extremely dangerous for dogs and can even be fatal. The toxin is most concentrated in the bulb, but all parts of the plant, including leaves, stem and petals, can be dangerous for dogs. If a small amount is ingested, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhoea and drooling. In more serious cases of tulip poisoning, symptoms can include an increased heart rate, breathing difficulties and tremors. Tulips can also cause irritation to the mouth and digestive system, so if you think your dog has eaten any tulips, however small the quantity, it is best to get them to a vet for treatment as soon as possible.
Snowdrops may be less toxic to dogs than daffodils and tulips, but they can still be a serious health risk if they are eaten in large quantities. These smaller, unassuming flowers can sprout up among the grass at this time of year, meaning that you may not immediately notice if your dog is sniffing around them. This makes it all the more important to be on the lookout for signs of snowdrop poisoning. If eaten, snowdrops can cause symptoms from stomach pain and vomiting to loss of coordination or muscle spasms. While snowdrop poisoning is relatively rare and most dogs make a full recovery, it is always best to seek a vet’s advice if you are unsure about your pet’s health or think they may have consumed this flower.
Rhododendron bushes are a common sight towards the end of spring, as their distinctive pink and purple flowers come into full bloom. However, all parts of the plant, from the flowers to leaves and stem, are poisonous to dogs. Toxic resins, called grayanotoxins, are present throughout the plant, meaning that it can cause vomiting, drowsiness and breathing difficulties in our canine companions. Even a few leaves of the plant would be extremely dangerous for a curious dog, so they are best avoided.
What happens if my dog has eaten one of these plants?
The first thing to do if you believe your dog has consumed a toxic plant is to get them to a vet as soon as possible. Speed is key, as treating poisoning before the toxins are fully absorbed gives affected animals the best possible chance of recovery. It is useful to take a photo of the plant that may have been eaten to aid identification, and be able to provide further information to the vet on when and how much was eaten.
Treatment for plant poisoning may include induced vomiting shortly after the plant is eaten, and activated charcoal may be given by mouth to absorb harmful toxins. Intravenous fluid may also be needed to aid decontamination and severely affected dogs may be kept in a clinic for monitoring.