Spring Plant Poisons

The evenings are getting brighter while the days are getting warmer and it is truly starting to feel like winter is behind us. Spending more time outdoors and getting to see gardens and local green spaces spring back to life is a wonderful sight – the trees are getting greener and colourful plants are starting to break through the soil. However, despite their pretty colours and delicate petals, not all plants are as innocent as they first look. Many spring plants can make your pets very poorly and even be fatal. Hopefully, we can help you keep your pet safe at this time of year by pointing out a few plants to avoid and giving some advice on what to do if you do encounter them.

Daffodils are often associated with the start of spring. As the days get warmer the green shoots pop up from the soil and bloom into the recognisable pretty yellow flowers. However, daffodils can be very harmful to your pet if eaten, particularly the bulb. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. These signs may appear any time, from 15 minutes up to a day after eating the plant. In serious cases severe dehydration, tremors and convulsions may develop. With crocuses, tulips, azaleas, sago palms and rhododendrons, consumption can also result in similar symptoms.

All parts of Bluebell and Lily of the Valley plants are also extremely toxic to pets if eaten. In addition to vomiting and diarrhoea, ingestion of these plants can lead to serious heart problems, such as slowing heart rate and arrhythmias (irregular or abnormal heart rhythm). Seizures may also result.

Lilies make a beautiful and elegant addition to any room, however all parts of the plant of highly toxic to cats, causing severe and sudden onset kidney failure. Some species may cause other toxic effects even in dogs, varying from stomach upset to skin problems, or even organ failure. If you do have lilies in the house it is recommended that they are kept completely out of reach of all pets – and remember, even the pollen is toxic to cats!

Ivy is not only toxic when eaten but also can cause problems when in contact with the skin and eyes. Signs of ivy contact may include conjunctivitis (inflammation around the eye), itchiness and skin rashes.

So what should you do?

If you see your pet eating any of the plants mentioned above, your first port of call should be to immediately give us a call! Take note of what it was they were eating, which part of the plant, what time and how much you think they ate if possible. If you can, it may be useful to bring a part of the plant in as some varieties of the same plant can be more dangerous and require more intensive treatment than others. Also carefully watch out for and note down any symptoms that they may start to develop. Even if no symptoms develop it is better to be safe than sorry, if you suspect your pet may have eaten any of the plants mentioned.

If your pet develops any of the symptoms and you know they may have had access to any poisonous plants, then again a trip to see one of our vets is the best course of action. Note down the symptoms, what time they started and any poisonous plants that you suspect they could have been in contact with.

Prevention is the best course of action to avoid plant poisoning in your pet.

This can be trickier to achieve in outdoor cats, as they may travel further than you can control and are often unsupervised. If you know your pet has a habit of eating certain plants you may want to grow them in raised pots that are out of reach or fence of areas to prevent access. When out and about, just keep an eye on them so you can quickly step in if you think they may be heading towards any dangerous plants.

Flowers aren’t the only thing popping up in spring. With more sunshine and fresh spring showers, the grass is starting to shoot up too. Although regular grass may not be poisonous some cats may enjoy eating long blades of grass that can cause problems if they get stuck in the nose or throat. Signs such as excessive coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite and nasal discharge could be symptoms of a stuck grass blade in an otherwise healthy cat. We will usually be able to rapidly diagnose and fix this problem.

Although poisonous plants are a concern in spring they should not stop you and your pet enjoying the outdoors at this time of year. Equipped with the right knowledge you can keep your pet safe throughout the spring and into the summer. If you have any questions or concerns about poisonous plants then our vets will be happy to have a chat anytime.

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