There are many different plants commonly found in gardens around the country that could make your dog ill. Some of these are highly poisonous, while others may only cause a mild tummy upset. Plants also vary in attractiveness to dogs; a shrub may sit in your garden for years without being touched by them, while a fallen conker or acorn may instantly appear enticing the moment it hits the ground. Deciding what to keep in your garden will not only depend on the toxicity of the plant, but also how inquisitive your dog is.
List of poisonous plants
There are many house and garden plants that are poisonous to dogs, a list of the most common ones are found below. Not all poisonous plants are on this list, so if you are wondering if a plant is poisonous, contact a plant expert for advice.
In any emergency, always contact your vet first.
List of poisonous plants
- Amaryllis bulbs
- Asparagus fern
- Daffodil bulbs
- Day lilies
- Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)
- Lily of the valley
- Morning glory
- Rhubarb leaves
- Sweet pea
- Tulip bulbs
- Umbrella plant
If your dog chews or eats any of these, seek veterinary help immediately.
Poisoning from acorns is most likely to occur in the autumn months when these fruits have fallen to the ground. A one-off feast of acorns is likely to cause vomiting, diarrhoea, both of which may be bloody, and may cause the dog to become sleepy. Eating acorns regularly may cause kidney or liver problems, while eating large amounts may cause an obstruction.
Mouldy foods can contain lots of different toxins and, if eaten, may make your dog ill. One particular substance, which is mostly found on mouldy dairy products, bread and nuts, can cause dogs to quickly develop muscle tremors and seizures, which may last for up to two days. If you compost your food scraps, then make sure that they are kept outside in a sealed container that your dog cannot access.
Conkers (horse chestnuts)
These beautiful shiny seeds may appear very attractive to your dogs, but are usually only found in autumnal months. All parts of the horse chestnut could make your dog ill, with effects including being sick, having an upset stomach, dribbling and being off their food. Since conkers are large and hard they could also pose a choking risk.
Most species of Christmas tree are of low toxicity, but oils from the needles may be irritating to the mouth and stomach, causing excessive salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea if chewed. Needles from these trees are sharp and can cause physical injury.
Fungi (also known as wild mushrooms or toadstools)
There are thousands of different fungi in the UK, varying dramatically in shape, size, colour and how poisonous they are. Although some fungi may be fairly distinct in appearance, it is incredibly difficult to identify most wild mushrooms. Some fungi are edible, while others are extremely dangerous, and sadly it is not always easy to tell the difference between the two. Signs of poisoning may vary dramatically depending on the type of fungi eaten, and may include stomach upset, blood in the stools or vomit, neurological effects such as hallucinations or fits, kidney or liver failure. The type of fungi eaten will determine the onset of effects, which can be very sudden - there could be symptoms ten minutes after eating the fungi, or they may be delayed by days, or even in some rare instances by several weeks.
What to do if your dog eats an unknown fungi
If your dog does eat an unknown wild mushroom, take them to the vets immediately and if possible, bring along a picture, or ideally a sample of the fungi in a paper bag, or carefully wrapped in paper (do not wrap or place in a plastic bag). Take note of the area where the fungi was found (e.g. was it growing in grass or on a tree stump etc.) as this may help experts identify what fungi your dog has eaten should they become ill.
This plant is generally considered to be of low toxicity, but the spiky leaves may cause physical damage if eaten, and the berries can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
This vine may cause a tummy upset if eaten, while substantial or prolonged skin contact can cause severe irritation, or an allergic contact dermatitis. Not to be confused with American poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), which is not commonly found in the UK.
This festive shrub is considered to be of low toxicity, but the berries may cause a tummy upset if eaten. Some reports suggest that mistletoe is very poisonous, but these refer to American mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens), which is native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Americas, rather than European mistletoe (Viscum album), which is native to Europe.
Poinsettia is often said to be very toxic, but the potency of this plant is often greatly exaggerated. Whilst it may not be as poisonous as you think, it can still cause excessive salivation and sometimes vomiting.
Apricots, nectarines, damsons, cherries, plumbs, peaches and cherry laurel all belong to the Prunus family. If the seeds, or stones of these fruits are chewed and swallowed, it can cause toxic effects. The stones of these fruits contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can be broken down by enzymes to produce hydrogen cyanide. Effects may appear very quickly, or may be delayed and can include frothing at the mouth, large pupils, breathing difficulties and sudden death. Stones swallowed whole are less likely to cause severe effects, but may still cause a stomach upset, or may cause an obstruction.
Old or spent fireworks can contain hazardous chemicals which can be poisonous to your dog. Initially these poisons can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, tummy pain and/or bloody stools. More severe effects may include seizures and the chemicals may also affect your dog's breathing, kidneys and liver. If you let your dog into your garden unsupervised after, or around Bonfire Night, make sure that you first pick up and throw away any rubbish that may have fallen into your garden.
Incidents of poisoning from spring bulbs are most likely to occur from dogs eating the bulbs in autumn when they are planted, or in spring when they begin to flower.
- Daffodils: effects from poisoning can include vomiting, stomach upset and salivation, but can escalate to dogs appearing sleepy, wobbly on their legs, or collapsing. In more serious cases fits and changes to heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. Dogs can also become unwell if the flowers are eaten, or if they drink water from a vase containing daffodils
- Tulips: the toxins found in this plant cause irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract and usually only result in drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Serious cases are rare, but effects could include heart problems and breathing difficulties
- Spring crocus: these flower in spring and are said to be of low toxicity and may only cause a mild stomach upset if eaten. These bulbs are not to be confused with autumn crocus, which flower in autumn and can cause severe stomach upset, kidney and liver problems and bone marrow depression
Toads secrete venom from glands found on their skin that can be poisonous to pets that bite them, pick them up in their mouth or lick them. Toads are most active in warmer months and may be more easily found by your dog after rain or at dawn or dusk. The toads' venom can cause irritation in the mouth, leading to apparent pain, salivation and pawing at the mouth. In more severe cases it can cause behavioural changes (the dog being wobbly on its legs, appearing disorientated or anxious), increased breathing, heart rate changes and fits.
Toads commonly eat slugs and snails and therefore could be a source of lungworm for dogs.
Tips on how to poison-proof your home
When planting a number of bulbs, make sure to either keep your dog out of reach of the bulbs, or keep the bulbs in a sealed container and take each one out as you plant it.
What to do if you think your dog is poisoned
If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn't have, speak to your vet straight away.
Never try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.
Things to tell your vet
In an emergency you can help your veterinary practice make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be treated by them and, if so, what the best treatment would be. Where possible you should provide your veterinary practice with the following information:
- What poison you think your dog has been exposed to (i.e. chocolate, ibuprofen etc.). Include any product names, or lists of ingredients if relevant
- How much they may have been exposed to (i.e. 500mg, 500ml, one tablet etc, even approximations may help)
- When your dog was exposed to the poison (i.e. five minutes, five hours or five days ago)
- If your dog has been unwell and, if so, what clinical effects have been seen
It is easier for a vet to care for a poisoned dog if it is treated sooner rather than later. If you are in any doubt, don't wait for your dog to become unwell before calling for advice.
What to take to your vets
If you do need to take your dog to your veterinary practice, make sure that you take along any relevant packaging, or a sample of the poison, e.g. parts of plant or fungi. Always make sure that you yourself are protected and cannot be poisoned in turn.
How to use this information
The information is intended to be used to prevent poisoning by raising awareness of certain poisons, rather than as a document to be used in an emergency. If you think that your dog has been poisoned, or has come into contact with potentially poisonous substances, contact your local veterinary practice immediately.
Think your dog may be affected?
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.
Find a vet near you
If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.