Earlier this summer, I talked about the risks of herbicides commonly used on our gardens and lawns, to our pets. To keep your summer happy and safe for you pets, there are a couple other things that you should be aware of- poisonous plants and cocoa mulch.
The following is a list of common ornamental garden plants that can affect our pets and signs that are associated with toxicity for you to be familiar with. Many of them have similar signs so it is important for you to let your veterinarian know if you have any possibly toxic plants in your yard that they could have eaten.
- Foxglove (/Digitalis /species)- this plant’s toxic compounds are found in the flowers, seeds and leaves and interfere with electrical conduction in nerves and heart. Signs to look for include vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, depression, troubles breathing, convulsions and coma leading to death.
- Japanese Yew (/Taxus/species) – found within the wood, bark, leaves and seeds, the toxic compound can interfere with heart electrical conductivity, leading to cardiac arrest. Signs include weakness, trembling, troubles breathing, convulsions and coma leading to death.
- Rhododendron, Azaleas and Laurels (/Rho//d//odendron/species)/-/ the toxic compound is found within all parts of the plant and affects the heart as well. Signs you should look for include salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, weakness, incoordination, paralysis and death.
- Dutchman’s Breeches (/Dicentra /species) – the toxic compound is found within the leaves and roots and causes salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, running with their head up, rigidity, convulsions, paralysis and death.
- Lily of the Valley (/Convallaria majalis/) – within the leaves, flowers and roots, the toxic compounds affect the heart, leading to inappetance, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, confusion, coma leading to death from heart failure.
Another risk to pets that has been attracting attention through spam emails and Facebook messages, are mulches made from Cocoa bean hulls-also sold as Cocoa coir. Cocoa bean hulls are a popular mulch for gardeners, due to their pleasant cocoa smell and colour. While it can be hard to find in Canada as Cedar is cheaper, Canadian gardeners often search for it and should be aware of the risk to pets, dogs in particular. Because it is made from cocoa bean hulls and contains the sametoxic compounds as chocolate and cocoa- namely Theobromine and Caffeine-pets may eat the hulls and develop the same symptoms as a chocolate toxicity. These signs include excitability leading to seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and becoming comatose before death. While it is rare for pets to eat the mulch, it has been documented and precautions should be taken to keep your pets away from areas that are mulched with Cocoa Beans.
As with most toxins, prevention is better than treatment as there are no treatments for most of these plant toxicities- by the time symptoms show up, often supportive care for the symptoms is all that we are able to do.
Early treatment improves the success of treatment because we are able to either induce vomiting or flush the stomach to reduce the absorbed dose.
By getting your pet on Intravenous fluids early, we are able to flush the absorbed toxins out of the body quicker while minimizing the dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea.