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Where can I find out about plants that might be poisonous for my pets?

A number of plants are poisonous to pets. These can cause serious illness and even death in some cases. It’s important to first check the safety of any plants before your pets have access to them. If you’re unsure about the safety of a particular plant, talk to your veterinarian for advice.

The following links provide useful information:

1. Animal Emergency Centre (AEC) Pet dangers: Click on ‘Plants’: Common toxic plants, for more information.

Poisonous plant example:

  • Lilies (Lilium spp and Hemerocallis spp)

The entire lily plant is toxic. Cats are exceptionally susceptible to toxicity. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause complete kidney failure in 36-72 hours. The toxicity may occur by ingestion of, or by mouthing, very small amounts of lily material.

Symptoms include vomiting (often contains pieces of lily) and signs associated with kidney failure including disinterest in food, lethargy, depression and no urination.  Owners should make sure their cats never have access to any type of lily plant.

Recommendation: If your cat has had access to a lily plant take them to your nearest veterinarian immediately (even if you didn’t see your cat contact the plant or you just suspect they may have had access). The key to successful treatment is early recognition of possible ingestion and clinical management of the ensuing kidney failure.

2. The US animal welfare organisation ASPCA runs a national Animal Poisons Control Centre for pets which includes a list of the most frequently encountered plants that have been reported as having systemic effects on pets and/or intense effects on the gastrointestinal tract. It also contains a list of reported non-toxic plants. The list includes information on the effects of each toxic plant, for example:

  • Common Name: Macadamia nut (also known as Australian nut, Queensland nut)
  • Scientific Name: Macadamia integrifolia
  • Family: Proteaceae
  • Toxic Principle: Unknown
  • Clinical signs: depression, hyperthermia, weakness, muscular stiffness, vomiting, tremors, increased heart rate.
  • Only reported in dogs at this time.

3. The University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Library also has a good database of plants toxic to animals (including photos and detailed description of the effects of the plants on animals).

4. Cornell University has a Poisonous Plants Information Database, which is arranged by type of animal and includes plants poisonous to livestock.

5. A useful book has recently been published by Veterinary Toxicologist Dr Ross McKenzie ‘Australia’s Poisonous Plants, Fungi and Cyanobacteria, A Guide to Species of Medical and Veterinary Importance.’ (2012) for the Australian context.

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Updated on May 1, 2019
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