In some ways, having pets in your yard is like having young children in your home. You need to take precautions.
So how do you keep your landscape from harming your pet and your pet from harming your landscape? Let's explore the options.
All of us likely grow plants that could be toxic to dogs or cats. The good news is, incidents of poisoning from plants are not common.
Human medications (prescription, over the counter and herbal) were the most common cause of pet poisoning calls to the ASPCA in 2014, followed by insecticides (particularly those applied to dogs and cats for flea control), household items (such as paints and cleaning products) and human food (onions, garlic, grapes and raisins for dogs, and xylitol, an artificial sweetener, which is toxic to animals.) Veterinarian medication overdoses and chocolate also were cause for concern.
Poisonous plants made up about five percent of the calls, followed by mouse and rat poison and lawn and garden products. The plant calls involved mostly cats and house plants.
The ASPCA's website has an excellent list of plants poisonous to cats and dogs. The association also offers a free Animal Poison Control Center mobile app for download.
Azaleas, for instance, can be fatally toxic to dogs (and people, too). Obviously, dogs don't typically eat azaleas, although I was made aware of an incident involving a puppy left alone inside a house all day with a potted azalea. Unfortunately, that did result in death.
Dog owners should be on high alert for one plant: sago palm (Cycas revoluta). There are male sagos and female sagos, and it's the females that present the most dangerous situation. Although all parts of the plant are toxic, the seeds are highly poisonous to dogs, and there have been numerous fatalities over the years in Louisiana. Seeds from female sagos should be gathered and disposed of in spring.
Lilies also are highly toxic to cats.
While it's important to find out what plants are toxic, I'm not sure how far I would go to radically change an existing outdoor planting — such as rip out all of the azaleas — to eliminate all potentially toxic plants. But it's good to be aware of the dangers.
There are dozens and dozens of plants listed as toxic to dogs on ASCPA.org. The list includes many plants that are common in South Louisiana gardens, including the following:
- American Holly
- American Mandrake
- American Yew
- Andromeda Japonica
- Asparagus Fern
- Bay Laurel
- Bird of Paradise
- Calla Lily
- Chinaberry Tree
- Cutleaf Philodendron
- Elephant Ears
- Rose of Sharon
- Sago Palm
- Sweet Potato Vine
- Trumpet Lily