SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

April 8, 2013

Pets, plants can co-exist

Some houseplants present a danger to pets, children

By Denise Trowbridge
For The Columbus Dispatch


Although anthurium is a beautiful addition indoors, all parts of it are toxic.


Amaryllis,  Anthurium,  Azalea,  Caladium,  Castor bean,  Calla lily,  Daffodil,  Dieffenbachia,  English ivy,  Holly berries, Hyacinth,  Mistletoe, Oleander,  Philodendron,  Rosary pea,  Schefflera,  Spathiphyllum,  Yew

Source: North Carolina State University Extension

With houseplants, it’s good to know what you’re getting before you bring one home. Many common indoor plants are toxic to pets. The damage, depending on the plant, can range from a mild rash to death.

If you have curious pets or small children — many of the plants that sicken pets can also harm children — do your homework before buying new houseplants. And do a quick review of the plants you already own to make sure there aren’t any hidden dangers.

Many potentially harmful indoor plants have at least one chemical in common — calcium oxalate, a toxin present in the leaves, stems and roots. Pets that chew on plants containing the compound can develop intense mouth pain, drool excessively and vomit, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour animal poison-control hot line serving the United States and Canada.

Common plants containing calcium oxalate include anthuriums, peace lilies, philodendrons, golden pothos, elephant’s-ear, Chinese evergreen, dumbcane and umbrella plants.

Toxicity varies by plant. For instance, all parts of an anthurium are toxic, according to North Carolina State University Extension. They’re a minor skin irritant but will cause intense mouth pain if eaten. They are deadly only if ingested in large quantities.

  • If eaten, philodendrons can cause intense swelling and burning of the lips, tongue and throat, as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Pets can also suffer from convulsions, encephalitis and, in rare cases, kidney failure, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

Pets that eat dieffenbachia, or dumbcane, will suffer from immediate intense pain, burning and inflammation in their mouths and may walk around with their “tongue extended, head shaking,” the guide said. The good news is that the immediate pain limits the amount pets can eat, making its ingestion fatal only rarely.

Surprisingly, plants commonly billed as air purifiers can also pack a wallop. English ivy, if the leaves are eaten, can cause pets to drool or vomit, while golden pothos can cause pain and burning if ingested. Even aloe vera can make pets sick if they eat it.

Many popular holiday plants and decorations contain toxins as well. Amaryllises, grown for their striking winter flowers, can cause vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes death. The bulb, not the leaves, is toxic.

Cyclamen, also known for its bright winter flowers, can cause paralysis but only if the rhizomes are eaten.

Taxus, or yew, is a common outdoor shrub in central Ohio, but the greens are sometimes brought indoors for decorations. All parts of the plant are highly toxic to dogs and cats. After eating any part of the plant, pets can experience drooling, vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, seizures and coma, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Once symptoms appear, death is almost certain.

  • Mistletoe has long been known as a toxin, and eating any part of it can quickly result in death, sometimes within hours. Easter lilies can burn through all nine of a cat’s lives as well. All parts of the plant are poisonous to cats, and ingestion can cause vomiting and loss of appetite within 12 hours and kidney failure two to four days later. It’s not toxic to other animals, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

Although danger lurks in houseplants, pets and plants can still coexist. For instance, if your feline likes to chew on indoor plants, you could try to draw it to a safer snack by planting cat grass, suggests Linda Naeve, an urban agriculture specialist at the Iowa State University Extension.

  • Or opt for plant species deemed safe for pets, such as African violets, areca palms, bamboo and bamboo palms, Christmas cactus and spider plants.

For a complete list of plants both harmful and safe for pets, visit

Denise Trowbridge is a Columbus freelance writer who covers garden topics.

(My Comment:   To offset the toxic world we occupy,  we need to take advantage of everything available to us and at heidi-2home, that burden falls largely to our plant kingdom.    But our pets are also as important as any other piece of the puzzle.  In my abode,  I successfully, have both – abundantly.  What would I do without my Heidi?

Guess I have been quite lucky, Heidi has been no problem with all my plants.    It may have partly to do with what I feed them.  Kelp powder, a scant teaspoon or less to a couple  quarts of water is what I give them all.  Figure the plants need minerals just like we do and I can’t think of anything else that would be as good.  But it does have a smell to it.  It doesn’t seem to attract Heidi. The plants have never looked better nor been as healthy.  Truly.  I sometimes mist or spray them as well, but then I do use the humidifier for my own body, the furnishings and paintings – just to keep everything working and healthy.

My Benjamina Ficus is all the way to the ceiling and my fiddle leaf fig is almost as tall as me now.   I love all my babies and it is delightful to breathe in here.  When I was growing the Wheat grass, I usually put some down for Heidi  when I would cut a hand-full for my daily juice- she seemed to really like it.   As for Heidi’s diet – I feed her Blue – Salmon, no grains for my girl, by golly.     Joy from my ‘green house’ to yours,. . . . Jan)


1 Comment »

  1. Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the challenges.
    It was really informative. Your site is very useful.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by — July 24, 2013 @ 7:40 am | Reply

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