Spring Flowers and Toxicities

by | Feb 16, 2018 | News

It’s that time of year again when the snow starts to melt and winter starts to loosen its grip. Soon it will be time to start picking out those spring and summer flowers to help brighten up our world after a colorless winter wonderland. Before you start picking out this spring’s flower garden, there are some things you should know about flowers. They may look pretty and smell amazing, but did you know that they can be toxic to your dog or cat? It is true, almost all plants can cause some gastrointestinal upset; some can cause even more serious health issues if your pet consumes them. To help you with your beautification process of your home as well as protecting your furry creatures, here is a quick list of the top springtime flowers to keep in mind:

  • Lilies

            With their long-lasting fragrances and vibrant colors, lilies can be found almost everywhere. From the garden outside to the floral bouquet in your house, they are one of the most common flowers for pets to come in contact with. For lilies, there are two types: benign and dangerous. The benign lilies contain a certain type of crystal that causes minor health issues such as tissue irritation. This irritation usually presents itself as drooling, pawing at the mouth, foaming from the mouth, and vomiting, occasionally. Examples of these lilies are Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies.

The more dangerous lilies that can cause potentially fatal health issues are true lilies from the Lilium or Hemerocallis species. These lilies are highly toxic to cats, even with small ingestions of petals or leaves (2-3 petals or leaves), pollen, or water from the vase. Ingestion can result in acute kidney failure. Examples of these lilies are tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, and Japanese Show lilies.

Another type of dangerous lily is the Lily of the Valley; this type affects both cats and dogs. It does not cause kidney failure like the previous lilies listed. Instead, it causes heart arrhythmias and can lead to death when ingested. Bringing the pet in for treatment as soon as possible can provide a better outcome and prevent long-term side effects.

  • Azalea

Azaleas are another common flower that is very toxic to both cats and dogs. Every part of this plant, from its leaves and petals to its stem and pollen, is considered poisonous. As little as 0.2% of your pet’s body weight of ingested plant can cause poisoning to occur. The toxin responsible for causing the health issues is called grayanotoxin. This toxin affects and disrupts the sodium channels in the body that help control skeletal and cardiac muscles. Common clinical signs include gastrointestinal health issues like vomiting and diarrhea as well as cardiovascular health issues like heart arrhythmias and weakness. It can also affect the central nervous system and cause seizures or a coma. With treatment, the overall outcome is considered fair.

  • Crocus

Like lilies, Crocus plants have two types, one benign and one very dangerous. The benign types are the ones that usually flower in the spring, such as the Iridaceae species. These, like most plants, can cause some gastrointestinal upset like drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.

The dangerous types are the ones that usually flower in the fall. These are part of the Liliaceae species and produce a toxin called colchicine. This toxin is highly toxic and is known to cause severe reactions that can be seen immediately or a couple days after ingestion. Some health issues that it causes are vomiting, bloody diarrhea, liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, and central nervous system issues such as seizures. It has also been known to cause death in some cases. Bringing the pet in for treatment as soon as possible can provide a better outcome and prevent long-term side effects.

  • Tulips

            Tulips are also from the same Liliaceae species as crocuses. The main difference between tulips and crocuses is the toxins’ location. In most of the flowers discussed so far, the toxin has been located in the petals or the leaves; however, in tulips the toxin is located mainly in the bulbs. Most tulip toxicities are seen in dogs that dig up recently planted bulbs or have chewed on a bag containing bulbs. Small ingestions can cause tissue irritation like drooling or vomiting. When it comes to larger ingestions of tulip bulbs, more severe symptoms, such as increased heart rate and labored breathing, can be seen. With treatment, the outcome is good.

If your pet is seen consuming any flower, bring them into a veterinarian immediately for medical care. Also, bring the flower to the clinic so the veterinarian can identify which flower was consumed and how treatment should be directed. With most cases, as indicated above, immediate treatment leads to the best health outcomes. Delaying treatment decreases recovery and increases long-term side effects from the toxins. If you are questioning whether or not you should bring your pet in after eating a flower, call your veterinary clinic or the Pet Poison Helpline for assistance; the number for Pet Poison Helpline is 800-213-6680.

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