Pets and Plants: How to Keep Pets Out of the Garden
Gardeners enjoy tending and caring for things, so it’s hardly surprising that many also own pets. Dogs and cats both enjoy gnawing on plants occasionally. Not only is this destructive behavior (I just planted that!), many common garden and houseplants are toxic.
Ideally, a garden shouldn’t include poisonous plants at all, but sometimes we take the risk. After all, do you really want to forgo the beauty of early spring tulips because the bulbs are poisonous? In such case you need to ensure pets — and children — cannot access the plants.
Poisonous Garden Plants
The list of poisonous decorative garden plants is extensive and it can be rather frightening. For instance, castor beans are popular for their decorative seed pods. Each of those seeds contains enough ricin to kill a child, never mind a pet. Ricin is a powerful cytotoxin capable of causing abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, which in turn produces severe dehydration and dangerous drops in blood pressure.
Vegetable gardens aren’t immune to toxins either. Unripe green potatoes contain a nerve toxin called solanine, which can paralyze the nervous system. The stems and leaves of potatoes are also high in solanine, providing the plant with protection against insects. Rhubarb stalks may be edible, but the green leaves contain oxalate, which is toxic in large amounts.
Fruit trees can also harm pets. Apple seeds, black cherry pits, apricot pits and peach pits also contain amygdalin that the body metabolizes into hydrogen cyanide, which then interferes with bloods ability to transport oxygen. Granted, you’d have to eat many pits or seeds to accumulate dangerous levels of hydrogen cyanide, but anyone who’s seen a dog wolf down food understands the potential danger here.
Other common garden plants capable of poisoning pets include:
- Azaleas (rhododendrons)
- Baby’s breath
- Morning Glory
Houseplants can also poison pets, and they are a constant temptation for a plant-chewing cat or dog. Aloe Vera, a succulent often used as a salve for minor burns, can cause vomiting, diarrhea and depression in pets. Other toxic houseplants include asparagus ferns, Calla lilies, cycads, geraniums, pencil cactus and ribbon plants.
The list of toxic plants provided here is hardly comprehensive; hundreds of plants are poisonous. To be safe, identify any unknown plants in your yard or house. Check all new plants for toxicity before planting them or bringing them into the home.