Toxic plants that can poison your dog or cat

Many plants can result in life threatening situations if your pet consumes them. In this article the most common South African plants are discussed.

1 Cycads are commonly found in the SA gardens. All parts of the plant are potentially poisonous; however, the highest amount of toxin is found in the seeds. Gastro-intestinal signs will occur first and subside after a day or two only to be followed by the development of severe liver damage. This could result in death approximately two weeks later due to liver failure.

2 Cats are more susceptible to the toxic effect of true Lilies, such as Lilium or Hemerocallis species. These lilies contain nephrotoxin, which can result in renal failure within 24-72 hours of consumption. Ingestion of less than one leaf can result in kidney damage. Even when the cat ingests the pollen from its fur while grooming can result in acute kidney failure.

3. Delicious Monster and Elephant Ears contain calcium oxalate crystals. When an animal chews on this plant, the sharp crystals become embedded in the mucous membranes of their mouth and tongue causing severe pain and irritation. The dog will show excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing and vomiting.

4 The Chinkerinchee, Star of Bethlehem, or Tjienkerintjee is a beautiful plant, which is highly toxic to dogs and cats. When dogs dig out and chew the bulb, they can become poisoned. Animals can also consume the water in which the cut flower has stood. The pet can show severe diarrhoea, vomiting, ataxia and even blindness.

5 Syringa berry tree (Melia azederach) also called Chinese Berry or Syringa berry tree. The berries contain highly toxic meliatoxins, which can cause severe nervous system affects. Symptoms to watch out for are restlessness, muscle trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea, respiratory distress, seizures and even death.

6 Cannabis Sativa, is also called as “dagga or Marijuana” .This plant is harmful to dogs and cats. Animals will often eat the plant or even eat the butt of a Marijuana cigarette. Symptoms that your pet can show are depression, incoordination, vomiting, increased respiration rate and tremors. Always tell the vet if your pet was exposed.

7 Grasses such as Rooigras, Spear grass/ Assegaaigras and Bur Bristle grass have sharp seeds. These seeds often penetrate the nose, ears, gums, soft palate, eyes, eyelids, and even between the toes. When the seed comes into contact with the skin, it stabs it, the pet starts licking and causes the seed to penetrate further. The shown symptoms depend on the location of the grass seed. In the ear it can result in rubbing and shaking of the head. The eye can get swollen, red and inflamed. In the nose, it will cause sneezing and nasal discharge. In the skin it will cause licking and biting of the affected area.


Please contact your vet as soon as possible when you suspect your pet to have consumed poisonous plants. See also: petpoisonhelpline.com

Sources: Potential plant poisonings in dogs and cats in Southern Africa, 2009, Botha CJ and ML Penrith, SAVA, 80(2) 63-74

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