Protect your pets in the garden

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Pet Safe logo

While many garden plants and flowers are edible, there are some that can pose a significant risk to children, pets and even adults. Each year thousands of cats and dogs are needlessly poisoned because they eat toxic plants in the home and garden.

Most pet owners have seen their cats or dogs munching on the garden grass. Animals often eat grass to purge hair balls from their system. But what about the other plants in our gardens?

Charlie Dimmock is heading up a Pet Safe campaign to highlight the issue, which is asking plant producers and manufacturers of garden products to label their plants and products as safe or harmful to cats and dogs.

A recent garden planted at the Horniman Museum in London, as part of the Chelsea Fringe festival, highlights a collection of plants that are poisonous to pets if eaten. The garden, designed by Ian Drummond, was sponsored by pet insurers MoreThan to educate garden owners about some of the dangers as part of its Pet Safe campaign.

The list of 40 toxic plants in the garden, which at best could cause a tummy upset and at worst could lead to death are not rare or exotic. All of the beautiful plants and flowers in the garden can be found in any home garden, public park or horticultural centre in Britain.

Some toxic garden plants

Lupins leaves and seeds can be harmful if eaten in quantity.

Asparagus fern, begonia, box, calla lily, cherry laurel, chrysanthemum, clematis, cordyline, daisy, dahlia, delphinium, elderberry, eucalyptus, flax, foxglove, geranium, grape plant, ivy, hosta, hydrangea, privet, Asian lily, lobelia, lupins, marigold, nerium, oleander, peony, poppy, yew, tomato plant, verbena, wisteria.

Other garden dangers

It’s not just plants and flowers you need to consider when planning a safe garden for your cat or dog, here are five other garden hazards.

Algae – Toxic freshwater algae (usually blue-green in colour, but sometimes colourless) has been known to poison animals. Dogs and cats should be discouraged from drinking from and swimming in ponds, especially in late summer when algae growth is most prevalent.

Bee and wasp stings can be especially problematic if they sting inside the mouth or nose of your pet. Always clear away windfalls as dogs in particular may be tempted to eat them or be interested in the haphazard movement of insects feeding on the fruit.

Compost heaps are a favourite place for pets to dig into. Fence yours off or use a specially made plastic, Dalek type bin that holds the compost out of your pet’s reach. Always be cautious of sharp sticks or potentially poisonous additions. Coffee, mouldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables such as grapes, raisins, avocado, onions, garlic or chives are toxic to cats and dogs.

Fertiliser and insecticides – If consumed, fertiliser can give your cat or dog a stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Consider carefully if you need to buy or use pesticides of any sort. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas, preferably locked away in a cupboard — and read the manufacturer’s label carefully for proper usage, storage and disposal. Never pour unused chemicals down the drain or into the soil.

Garden tools – Don’t leave garden tools unattended. Rakes, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and could cause injury to paws, noses or other parts of an inquisitive pet

Play safe and be aware of some of the dangers to pets in the garden. Image: Martin Mulchinock.

General symptoms of poisoning from plants or flowers

  • Oral or skin irritation
  • Upset stomach/vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Weakness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Coma
  • Heart failure
  • Depression
  • Excitability or lethargy
  • Tremors/seizures/fitting
  • Increased thirst
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness/loss of balance
  • Disorientation

Act fast for pet poisoning

Remember to contact your vet immediately if you think your pet has eaten any toxic plants, flowers, or in fact any toxic items or substances. Take along samples of the plant to the vet – or preferably any identification label, tag or pot information you may still have for the plant or product that you think has been eaten. Do not delay, seek help immediately.

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