PET FRIENDLY GARDENING TIPS (written by Pauline Larsen)

dog-gardenSpring is finally bringing more pleasant weather, and gardening season is here!   It’s time to prepare your garden…or at least your outdoor flower pots, for the bountiful time ahead, but if you have a dog, you  need to know that gardens can be hazardous to their health.   The ASPCA reminds animal caregivers to be mindful of the well-being of  their pets as April showers bring May flowers.  The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received more than 60,000 calls last year involving pets who had been exposed to toxic plants, insecticides, and weed killers.

While  plants  found in our gardens are beautiful to look at,  I was naively unaware  that these same plants can cause serious problems for our animals.  Lilies are one of the most  common poisonous plants found both in gardens and in indoor bouquets, but there are many other types of plants that can be poisonous.  Rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese ewe, foxglove, tulips, hyacinth, daffodils,  crocus, lily of the valley,  oleanders, caster beans, sago palms, amaryllis, English ivy,  chrysanthemums, (and marijuana J),  are among those that can cause serious health problems for your dog.


Tulips  and hyacinths contain allergenic lactones  that contain concentrated amounts in the bulbs, so make sure your dog isn’t digging up the bulbs in  your garden.  When the plant parts or bulbs are ingested , it can result in tissue irritation, and cause vomiting or diarrhea, depending on the amount consumed.    With large ingestions of the bulb,  increase in heart rate and changes in respiration can occur, and should be treated by a veterinarian.

Ingestion of daffodil bulbs, plants, or flowers can result in severe vomiting, diarrhea, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias, and again, veterinary care is recommended.

There are dangerous and benign lilies out there, with the Peace, and Calla lilies just causing minor irritations.  More dangerous, potentially fatal  ones  include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, and Japanese Show lilies.

There are two Crocus plants:  one that blooms in the spring and the other in the autumn.  The spring plants are more common and can cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea.  The  Autumn Crocus is highly toxic  and can cause severe problems, including liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure.  If you are like me, you may not be sure what plant you have, so it is best to consult your vet for care.  (Signs of ingestion may be seen immediately, but can also be delayed for several days)

I  love Lily of the Valley, but this plant can cause symptoms similar to foxglove ingestion, including  vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures, and will need to be professionally treated.

. It is important to remember that all dogs are different.  An older dog might not  be as likely to get into  dangerous toxins, but a curious puppy could be a different story.  Puppies  chew on just about anything, so it is imperative to sure that these unintentional “chew toys” aren’t  available to them.  Also, consider the activity level of your individual pet…some breeds are known for high-level curiosity.

Dr. Tina Wismer,   at the ASPCA’s poison control center, asserts, “Our number one phone call to poison control is about Labrador Retrievers.  They are big dogs that can get on the table or counter, and they are retrievers, so everything goes into their mouths, but Labs aren’t the only breed at risk.  Gardeners need to be aware that insecticides and mold growing on compost pile can be deadly to any dog, and fertilizers , and cocoa mulch, often used in landscaping, also pose health risks when large amounts are consumed.  Garden tools, including rakes, tillers, hoes, and trowels can be hazardous, and rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt pose a risk for tetanus, so be sure all tools are stored in a safe place. Prevention is always to best approach, so it is best to keep your dog restricted from any potentially harmful section of your garden.  Both you and your dog will benefit!”

For a complete list of plants that are toxic to dogs, go to

Larsen can be contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or by e-mail at

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