New Mexico's Pet Resource WINTER 2002



By Ardeth Baxter

Please note that the information below is not intended to replace veterinary advice or treatment.


According to Veterinary and Human Toxicology, about a quarter of all pets poisoned by non-drug products are poisoned by plants, but the good news is that only about 0.5% die as a result.

A variety of indoor and outdoor plants can cause slight to serious reactions. They are listed below by symptoms. If you have a pet who likes to chew on plants, check with your nursery, poison control center or veterinarian to find out if the plants in your house or yard are toxic. Outdoor plants with ** are found in the Southwest. Those with *** can be fatal.


Rash after contact with mouth or skin:
Chrysanthemum, pot mum, spider mum (Leaves)
Creeping fig, weeping fig (Plant sap)
Crown of thorns, cypress spurge, snow-on-the-mountain (Leaves)
Poinsettia (Leaves)

Irritating to mucous membranes, swollen mouth, painful tongue, sore lips:
Arrowhead vine, Nephthytis ivy
Boston ivy (Berries)
Dumbcane, drunk cane, dieffenbachia (Leaves, berries)
Elephant ears
Emerald duke, heart leaf, majesty, saddle leaf, split leaf philodendron
. Peace lily
Pothos, marble queen
Red princess
. Starleaf, tuftroot, tuberous begonia, wax begonia, water plant, yellow calla

Poisons may cause vomiting, abdominal pain, cramps, sometimes tremors, heart and respiratory and/or kidney problems:
. Amaryllis
Asparagus fern, Sprengeri fern
Azalea ***
. Chinese lantern
Christmas cherry, Jerusalem cherry (Leaves, berries)
Crown of thorns, cypress spurge, snow-on-the-mountain (Leaves)
Ground ivy, creeping Charlie
Ivy (glacier, heart, needlepoint, ripple (Leaves)
. Easter lily ***
. Lily-of-the-valley ***
Oleander ***
. Ornamental pepper
Poinsettia (Leaves)
Pot mum, spider mum (Leaves)
. Poinsettia
. Rhododendron ***
Umbrella plant

Outdoor Plants

Vomiting and/or diarrhea:
Apple (50+ seeds poisonous) **
Apricot, almond, peach, cherry, chokecherry, Japanese plum (Leaves, twigs, bark, pit, seeds) **
Balsam pear, balsam apple, bitter cucumber or bitter melon (Seeds)
Bird of paradise bush, poinciana (Fruits, seeds) **
Black locust (Leaves, seeds, bark)
Buckthorn (Leaves, fruit) **
Cardinal flower, Indian tobacco/punche **
Castor bean (Seed pulp: 8 seeds lethal; oil is safe.) ***
Daffodil (Seed pulp) ***
English holly (Leaves, berries)
European bittersweet, bittersweet woody (Bark, leaves, seeds)
Foxglove (Leaves, seeds) Heart stimulant.***
Ground cherry (Unripe fruit) **
Honeysuckle (Berries) **
Horse chestnut and buckeye (Seeds, nuts)
Indian turnip, Jack-in-the-pulpit (Bulbs, stems, leaves)
Iris **
Juniper **
Larkspur **
Mock orange **
Monkey pod or rain tree
Oak (Leaves, acorns) **
Poke weed, pokeberry (Esp. roots) ***
Privet **
Rocky Mountain elderberry (Berries) **
Skunk cabbage
Snowberry (Fruit) **
Soapberry (Leaves, fruit)
Wisteria (Seeds)
Yew, English yew, Canada yew

Varied effects:
Angel's (or devil's) trumpet, jimsonweed, sacred datura, thornapple **,***
Bleedingheart, squirrel corn, Dutchman's breeches (Leaves, roots)
Bracken fern
Buttercup (paralysis from large doses) **
Cocklebur (Seedlings) **
Corn lily, false hellebore **
Flax (Seed pods)
Halogeton (Leaves) **
Horsetail **
Jasmine (Berries)
Locoweed **
Lupine (Esp. seed pods) **
Matrimony vine (Leaves, shoots)
May apple & mandrake (Herbage, roots, seeds)
Milkweed **,***
Mistletoe (Berries) **,***
Monkshood, wolfsbane or aconite **
Moonseed (Fruit, roots)
Nightshade (Black, common, deadly) (Leaves, raw fruit)
Nightshade (Woody, climbing)
Pigweed (Leaves, stems, roots)
Poison hemlock ***
Potato (unripe, sprouts) **,***
Rhubarb (Leaves)
Scorpionweed (Hairs) **
Texas mountain laurel, mescal bean (used for necklaces in Mexico) **
Tomato vine (green parts)
Water hemlock (Stem, roots) ***
White marsh marigold **
Wild mushrooms (Fly, monkey agaric, death angel, death cap, panther cap) 1-2 "cups" can cause death; toadstools also toxic. **,***

Locoweed **
Marijuana **
Morning glory (Seeds)
Peyote **

Chinaberry (Especially berries) **
Coriaria (Leaves, berries)
Nux vomica


Chocolate, coffee, tea, and various medications that contain stimulants (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline). In both dogs and cats these substances can cause vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, heart arrhythmias, rapid breathing, muscle tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, and sometimes coma and death. Symptoms appear within 1-4 hours. A fairly large amount of chocolate must be consumed (16 ounces for a 20- to 40-pound dog), but deaths have been reported after ingestion of about 3 ounces (for a 15-pound dog) of baking chocolate, the most toxic chocolate. A lethal dose for a cat varies from 10% to 30% of her body weight.

Onions/onion powder can be toxic to both dogs and cats, but most commonly to kittens or sick cats that are fed baby food containing onion powder. Baby food can be good for cats who are reluctant to eat, but always make sure it contains no onion powder.

Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) can cause arthritis, inflammation, parasites, respiratory problems, swelling, and excess mucus.

Raw salmon (mainly Pacific and fresh water) can contain rickettsial parasites. Rickettsia is easily treated with antibiotics, but if untreated is fatal in 7-10 days.

Other items which should never be given to dogs and cats include alcohol, yeast dough, macadamia nuts, hops, cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco, raw egg whites, salt (dogs), and moldy or spoiled foods.


With the Christmas season upon us, remember that pets can be burned on the lips, tongue and gums and get a shock if they chew the electric cords from Christmas tree lights. Electric shock can lead to cardiac arrest or fluid in the lungs. Feel the chest or the femoral pulse (near the groin) to find a heartbeat. Seek medical help immediately. CPR may be needed, as well as treatment for shock.

Glass tree ornaments and tinsel can be dangerous of chewed or swallowed. If your pet appears distressed, drools, slobbers, swallows painfully, regurgitates food and water, vomits, coughs, bleeds from a body opening, or appears to have stomach pain or breathing problems, it may be caused by a blockage or perforation of the digestive tract. Seek medical help as soon as possible. You can also feed a large meal of pet food and bread, flour paste, or cotton balls soaked in milk or broth to coat the object and cushion its passage through the digestive tract. Check his feces every day for the object. To prevent indiscriminate chewing in dogs, buy a bottle of bitter apple and spray it on dangerous objects. Other unpopular flavors include chili powder or citrus, which cats loathe.

Part One of Pet Poisons (Household Hazards)

For a printable PDF (124KB) called "What You Should Know About Common Pet Perils" that includes plants, foods, household chemicals, frostbite, heat stroke, burns, insect stings, snake bites, and swallowed foreign objects,
please click here.

Ardeth Baxter is a Lone Butte wordsmith and multi-animal guardian who always strives to remain calm in emergencies.

If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man,
but deteriorate the cat. -Mark Twain

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