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Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.

What’s Toxic in Your Garden?

06/05/2017 by Colleen Williams
June 5th, 2017 by Colleen Williams

A dog with a stick in its mouth walks by the garden

While gardens are a place of beauty and peace, pet parents could feasibly see them as a ton of trouble. Everything from fertilizers to pesticides to poisonous plants can pose a problem for pets if exposed to or ingested. As garden season peaks, here are some of the most toxic elements of which to steer clear.

Chemicals & Compost

  • Out of all the chemicals we use in our gardens, rat poison and slug bait are two of the most harmful substances your pet can ingest. While rat poison is well-known as toxic to all animals, slug bait may come as a surprise. It contains a compound called metaldehyde, which causes slugs to “dry up.” If a cat or dog ingests the poison (or a slug that has recently eaten the poison), it can lead to tremors, increased body temperature, kidney failure, and death. If you suspect your dog or cat has eaten either poisons, you have about an hour to get to an emergency vet to induce vomiting in your pet. If you’re a pet parent, it would be best to skip these insecticides and pesticides and research more biodynamic, pet-friendly ways to keep your garden blooming; many of our pet parents recommend cups of beer!
  • Fertilizers of all sorts can also be a problem; if a large amount is eaten (and the odor can sometimes be attractive to pets), it can cause vomiting in both cats and dogs, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. If you use fertilizers, it’s best to keep your pets away from treated areas until they are dry or rinsed into the lawn.
  • Rooting through and eating compost has its own set of problems: it may contain poisonous food scraps, in addition to a specific toxin that occurs organically when food begins to break down. If you find your pet suddenly panting, drooling, and vomiting, get to the vet. Also, avoid dairy and meat products in your compost, and fence off the area so a furry friend can’t get into it.

Toxic Plants

Pet parent Rochelle discovered her mini Australian shepherd Jemma munching on a sago palm tree. After contacting the Pet Poison Control Helpline, she learned that the plant is so toxic even one seed was enough to kill Jemma. Rochelle brought her pup to an emergency vet hospital and then followed up at her regular vet. Jemma recovered with a bill of $1,779 (and Healthy Paws reimbursed $1,288). We’ve seen other pet parents submit claims ranging from $1,100 to $2,000 for similar circumstances.

There are about 700 plants considered toxic to household pets. The AKC’s Poisonous Plant Guide graphic is based on research of common plants, and the Pet Poison Helpline has every poisonous substance categorized and searchable on their site. Some of the most common plants and weeds to keep your pet from ingesting are:

  • Sago palm
  • Buttercups
  • Poison hemlock
  • Lilies
  • Daffodils
  • Narcissus
  • Nightshade
  • Holly
  • Common flowers such as amaryllis, azaleas, begonias, chrysanthemums, and daisies
  • Succulents (aloe and jade)
  • Veggies like tomatoes, rhubarb, garlic, or onions

Symptoms & Treatment

Symptoms of poisoning include hemorrhaging, seizures, tremors, drooling, and vomiting. Most vets recommend getting to an emergency veterinarian hospital within the first hour of exposure to fully treat and even save your pet’s life.


Know what’s growing in your garden and if it’s toxic, either pull it or fence it out of your pet’s way. While pesticides and herbicides are fairly common toxic ingredients, checking on what’s growing, what the weeds are, and keeping tabs on possible “problem plants” requires diligence and a bit of research, but the safety of your pet is priceless.