Animal Welfare

Common plant toxicity in companion animals

Many popular indoor plants are toxic to companion animals. This review discusses the indoor plants most commonly associated with companion animal poisoning in Europe.

Effects of plant poisoning range from mild vomiting and diarrhoea from ingestion of glycoside containing Aucuba japonica (spotted laurel) to potentially fatal gastrointestinal, neurological and liver problems from ingestion of just one or two seeds of the Cycas revoluta (sago palm). Anthurium spp. (flamingo flowers), Dieffenbachia spp. (dumb canes), Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lillies) and Zantedeschia aethiopica (arum lillies) contain calcium oxalates that if ingested cause clinical signs including drooling, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, diarrhoea, eye and breathing problems. Rhododendron spp. including azaleas and Nandina domestica (sacred bamboo), contain glycosides that if ingested cause gastrointestinal signs, breathing, heart and neurological problems. Cyclamen spp. (e.g. Persian violets) and Dracaena marginata (dragon tree) contain saponins that if ingested cause drooling, gastrointestinal signs, heart and neurological problems. Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia), which are common Christmas ornamentals, contain a range of substances that can cause irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract resulting in signs such as conjunctivitis, vomiting and diarrhoea. Lilium spp. (lillies) contain alkaloids that cause kidney failure if ingested by cats. One of the most common indoor plants, Ficus benjamina (ficus) also contain a variety of toxins that irritate the skin and gastrointestinal tract.

Given the ubiquity of these toxic plants, measures should be put in place to prevent companion animal poisoning. The authors also recommend a centralised system for reporting cases of companion animal poisoning.

Bertero A, Fossati P, Caloni F (2020) Indoor companion animal poisoning by plants in Europe. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7.

Source: RSPCA Science Update