Planting a Pet-Friendly Garden

by Cassandra McCullersJune 16, 2017

Many of our furry friends, puppies especially, will try and taste just about anything they can reach. Cats are pickier, but will still chew on grasses and flowers. Most people know that chocolate is a no-go, but some mushrooms, flowers, grasses, and other natural flora are also poisonous to pets. When out walking, don’t allow your pets to eat anything they find, since you can’t be certain of what it is or whether it might be toxic. Also note that many fertilizers and pesticides sprayed on roadsides or in gardens can be equally deadly, so it’s always a good idea to keep your pets from nibbling on plants in strange areas. But you have more control over your own yard, and if you want to keep your own pets (and area wildlife) a little safer, here’s a list of twelve plants and plant categories that you absolutely need to keep out of your garden – and out of reach of any critters – to ensure that your four-legged family members stay safe.


1) Sago Palms

As a popular indoor and outdoor plant originally from southern Japan, Sago palms look lovely, but the entire plant is toxic. It can only take one seed to cause liver failure. The outer shell is also sharp and hard, and there have been reports of dogs ending up at the veterinarian with pieces of its tough husk lodged in their throats.


2) Hops

Home-brewers beware: hops cones can cause dangerous levels of fever in dogs and some cats. Greyhounds are especially susceptible. The threat comes from ingesting the cones, especially when the mature cones drop to the ground. If you grow your own hops, you can minimize the risk by making sure there’s no low-lying cones in your dog’s reach, that your dog is kept away from fallen cones, and that your stored hops are animal-proof.


3) Chrysanthemums

While a beautiful autumnal favorite, chrysanthemums can cause dermatitis, vomiting, and uncoordination in both dogs and cats.


4) Lilies

While a popular indoor plant, true lilies (the Lilium and Hemerocallis genuses) cause kidney failure in cats. Examples of true lilies include day lilies, tiger lilies, Easter lilies, and rubrum or Japanese showy lilies. Lilies are extremely toxic, since even chewing a bit on a single leaf can cause kidney failure. Cats who receive treatment quickly tend to have good outcomes, but the problem can be deadly if left untreated. Early symptoms include vomiting, usually within a few hours of ingestion, and urine stopping within three days.


5) Japanese Yew

A common landscaping plant, thanks to its evergreen foliage, yews can cause irregular heartbeats or even cardiac arrest in some animals. All parts of the yew except the ripe berry are toxic, and can cause sudden death within hours. Pets are at greatest risk in the winter, since they might nibble on the still-green leaves when there’s no grass to eat.


6) Castor beans

Castor beans contain ricin, which can cause multiple organ failure. The toxin is located throughout the plant, with the highest concentration in the seeds.


7) Autumn crocus

Autumn crocus contains compounds that can cause vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, and even possibly death. Don’t confuse the autumn crocus with the spring crocus, which is safe for pets and just as pretty.


8) Amaryllis

A common Easter flower, amaryllis can unfortunately cause tremors, hyper-salivation, and abdominal pain when ingested. While not as deadly as some of the plants on this list, they’re still toxic and should be kept well away from pets, especially younger ones.


9) Garlic and onions

Most of the onion family, including garlic, onions, chives, leeks, scallions, and shallots, is toxic to cats and dogs. They affect red blood cells, possibly causing anemia, organ failure, or even death. They’re toxic whether fresh or dried, so also make sure your pets stay out of your spices and soups.


10) Grapes and raisins

Grapes and raisins can cause rapid kidney failure, although scientists are still uncertain about the exact substance in grapes that causes this toxic reaction. Grape/raisin toxicity can be fatal even in small amounts, so should never be given to pets or be grown in an area where dogs can easily eat the grapes off the vine.


11) Plants Containing Cardiac Glycoside

Cardiac glycoside is a toxic compound found in some flowers and plants that slows the heartbeat, sometimes leading to cardiac arrest, and is toxic to cats, dogs, birds, and all livestock. It’s also poisonous to humans, and can endanger children who might eat the flowers. The list of plants containing cardiac glycoside includes foxgloves, oleanders, lily of the valley, wallflower, squill, milkweeds, and dogbane.


12) Plants Containing Grayanotoxins

Grayanotoxins, or andromedotoxins, can cause vomiting, seizures, and even cardiac arrest. The list of plants containing grayanotoxins includes rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese pieris, and laurels. Most of these are highly toxic.

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About The Author
Cassandra McCullers
Cassandra is a writer with a background in engineering, enjoying the rural life in the Virginian Appalachians. When not working, she enjoys writing fiction, running a blog, camping, working in the garden, and tending to her flock of chickens! In addition to writing, she has a passion for art and graphic design. Her interests include disaster preparedness, homesteading, landscaping, cooking with natural ingredients, history, and animal husbandry.