The phrase in lieu of flowers has been an ever present saying in relation to wakes and funerals, for when a person dies. It’s not that people don’t like flowers, but at certain times or events, there are just too many of them to manage. They’re beautiful and help us bring the outdoors in, but not many of us have enough space to house all of this fragrant nature within our four walls.
Take for example the holidays of Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. How many of these female floral recipients have pets at home? This is where things become troublesome. The most sensitive noses in the business can smell opportunity for mischief one countertop away. Dogs and cats are both highly sensitive and curious. We can place flowers on higher surfaces to minimize the chance of face-to-face encounters for those who do not need them, toddlers included. Domestic house pets are notorious for working around a tempting challenge that is just out of their paws' reach. So how do they overcome these challenges? They jump up by using their super bionic hind legs and powerful arms to swipe away at things they want to bring closer to their sensory fun house: their mouths!
Over the years, I have caught my cats on the counters or kitchen table admiring and engaging with the pretty petals. They ruin my arrangements and chew on leaves like they're catnip. One of my dogs (who is a gymnast) has learned to hop onto the patio table to investigate plants and their destruction potential. I cannot help but think that if I am not paying attention to the assortment in the bouquets, I might miss a highly toxic ingredient. Lilies, for example, are on the killer list. I can definitely not afford to go down that stamen road of no return.
According to the ASPCA, there are no less than 17 species of poisonous and toxic varieties of plants and flowers. Here is a comprehensive list:
- Amaryllis: Common garden plants popular around Easter, Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, and tremors.
- Autumn Crocus: Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage, and bone marrow suppression.
- Azalea/Rhododendron: Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayanotoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness, and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.
- Castor Bean: The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness, and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma, and death.
- Chrysanthemum: These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins. If ingested they may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In certain cases, depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.
- Cyclamen: Cylamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.
- English Ivy: Also called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy, and California ivy, Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, if ingested by pets, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, and diarrhea.
- Kalanchoe: This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.
- Lilies: Members of the Lilium spp. family are considered to be highly toxic to cats. Even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant can cause severe kidney damage.
- Marijuana: Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and coordination problems, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate and even seizures and coma.
- Oleander: All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects that include gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, and even death.
- Pothos; both Scindapsus and Epipremnum: belongs to the Araceae family. If chewed or ingested, this popular household plant can cause significant irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Sago Palm: All parts of Cycas Revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or "nuts" contain the largest amount of toxin. Ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures, and liver failure.
- Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue in pets who ingest.
- Peace Lily also known as Mauna Loa Peace Lily: Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue in pets who ingest.
- Tulip/Narcissus Bulbs: The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions, and cardiac abnormalities.
- Yew: Taxus spp. contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, coordination problems, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.
The gift of flowers is a beautiful gesture and does not have to be a non-option for pet owners if the plants are on the “okay” list. Potted plants hang nicely indoors or out (check those care inserts). If you aim to give a gift that grows and lasts all season, many garden centers have product information available in their signage for pet friendly options. If you want to keep your furry friends out of your beds, check out one of our enclosure kits that will safely surround your plants and keep pets a safe distance away from heartache: theirs and yours.