Depending on where you live, there may still be a winter chill in the air, but there is no denying the fact that spring is officially around the corner! What better way to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine than to get started on your spring gardening? Create a beautiful garden that you can enjoy while also keeping your dog safe by avoiding these 12 common poisonous garden plants for dogs.
There are few activities that are as closely associated with the onset of spring as gardening. Not only is this a great way to get outdoors after feeling cooped up throughout the winter months, but gardening is also associated with improved mental health.
Many common garden plants, while beautiful, are toxic to dogs. This can range from mild digestive upset to serious health concerns including death. For this reason, it is important to do our research as dog lovers and make choices that prioritize the safety and well-being of the dogs that we love (and love us in return).
Before you start planting this season, let’s take a look at some of the most common offenders that may be lurking in your garden.
Eliminate the unnecessary risk to your dog and create a garden that you can both enjoy!
12 Common Poisonous Garden Plants for Dogs
#1 – Lily of the Valley
It has long been acknowledged that the lily is a plant to avoid with pets, however, you may be surprised to learn that the basic Lily is non-toxic to dogs (although the same can’t be said for cats).
Don’t drop your guard yet! Many varieties of Lily including the Lily of the Valley ARE still toxic to your pup. Ingestion of the Lily of the Valley has been associated with irregular heartbeats, low blood pressure, seizures, and even coma. If you aren’t sure about a specific variety of lily, leave it out of your garden plans. It’s better to be safe than risk your dog’s health.
Are you unsure of how to tell the two apart? A standard lily (sometimes called true lilies or daylilies) has a large open flower with long petals. This is the flower that is commonly seen in Easter decorations. The Lily of the Valley has small white bell-shaped flowers that cluster together along a leafless stalk with the leaves all growing from the base of the plant.
#2 – English Ivy
A beautiful climbing ivy used by landscapers and homeowners to cover brick buildings and fences; the English Ivy is another plant to skip if you share your home with a canine best friend. If your dog gets into the foliage of the English Ivy plant, you can expect to experience vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, and abdominal pain.
If you are set on including ivy in your garden space, there are garden plants safe for dogs that you can use instead, like Swedish ivy.
#3 – Tomato Plant
Do you prefer to spend your time focused on vegetable gardening? There are some common plants included on this list for you as well, starting with the tomato plant. While the ripe fruit is non-toxic, the plant itself can be highly dangerous for your pet. Ingesting a tomato plant can lead to a slowed heart rate, weakness, dilated pupils, and severe gastrointestinal distress.
#4 – Daffodil
Few plants scream ‘spring’ the way that the daffodil does! Before you go adding this beautiful yellow flower to your garden, however, you may want to think twice! This eye-catching spring flower is one of the more commonly seen poisonous garden plants for dogs. All parts of the daffodil plant are toxic to your pup, especially the bulb.
If your pet has snacked on just a little bit of the daffodil plant, they will likely experience gastrointestinal upset including vomiting, diarrhea, and excess salivation. In larger amounts, the daffodil can cause low blood pressure, tremors, and even cardiac arrhythmias.
#5 – Onion (and Other Members of the Allium Family)
Another highly toxic plant to avoid when plotting out your garden this year would be the onion plant, along with all other members of the allium family. This includes garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives. Not only are these garden plants toxic to dogs, but they could also be life-threatening with more serious exposure.
Members of the allium family can cause vomiting, excessive panting, weakness, blood in your dog’s urine, a high heart rate, or a breakdown of the red blood cells referred to as hemolytic anemia.
#6 – Rhubarb
Also known as the ‘pie plant’, this large garden plant is not only toxic to our dogs but there are parts of the plant that are toxic to us as well! This means that it’s a plant to avoid to keep both dogs AND small children safe! The rhubarb plant contains calcium oxalate, which is the most common cause of kidney stones. If ingested, it can cause tremors, excessive drooling, and kidney failure.
#7 – Tulip
Another popular spring flower, the tulip (especially the bulb) should be approached with caution if you have a dog in your home. While eating a tulip isn’t as serious as some of the other plants on the list, it can cause digestive issues including vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling.
#8 – Chrysanthemum
Often referred to as simply ‘mums’, the chrysanthemum plant is an incredibly common garden flower due to the fact that they are easy to grow. Unfortunately, they are also considered irritants for our furry friends. Ingestion of the chrysanthemum can cause digestive issues similar to those listed for the tulip (vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling) as well as a loss of coordination.
This may leave you on the search for non-toxic outdoor plants for dogs that will brighten your garden and celebrate the warmer weather. Marigolds are dog-friendly and will bloom all summer long. Other dog-safe perennials and annuals that you can add to your flower garden include magnolia bushes, coral bells, snapdragons, nasturtium, and petunias.
#9 – Sweet Pea
As pretty as the sweet pea may look in your garden, this Is not a plant that dog lovers will want to risk keeping around their home. The highly toxic sweet pea plant has been known to cause pacing, lethargy, weakness, head and face rubbing, tremors, seizures, and even death. There are many different varieties of sweet pea plants, all of which can cause your dog harm.
#10 – Azalea
An easy-to-care-for spring shrub, azaleas are often a favorite for newer gardeners. However, you may not have realized just how dangerous the azalea can be for your dog. Not only can ingestion of the azalea shrub result in digestive upset leading to vomiting and/or diarrhea but it has also been associated with cardiac failure.
If you’re looking to include a flowering shrub in your garden without putting your best friend at risk, there are some great options of outdoor plants safe for dogs that you can choose from. Camellias are evergreen shrubs with beautiful pink flowers.
#11 – Gladiola
These tall flowers are an eye-catching addition to any garden, but you may want to look elsewhere for that pop of color in your garden if you have a dog. If your pup were to get into this plant, it can cause significant gastrointestinal problems, leading to excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. While the whole plant is toxic, the biggest risk comes from the bulbs.
#12 – Hydrangea
Available in a wide variety of colors including blue, pink, white, lavender, light rose and even green, the hydrangea is a very popular flowering shrub. This shrub contains a compound called ‘cyanogenic glycoside’, which releases hydrogen cyanide when broken down (such as by chewing or digestion).
The good news is that it is rare for enough to be produced to cause cyanide intoxication. The bad news? It has been associated with gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and depression. At the end of the day, even a ‘rare’ response is too big of a risk to take!
How Can I Keep My Dog Safe?
If you currently have any of the plants listed above in your garden, there are a few steps that you can take to keep your dog safe (without necessarily getting rid of your plants entirely).
To prevent your dog from getting into something that they shouldn’t in a backyard garden, where your dog might normally have access, consider fencing the garden area off. This is a common approach for vegetable gardens (to keep both dogs AND local pests away) but can also be used for flower gardens.
Container gardening is another option, especially for those with smaller dogs. This will allow you to elevate your plants so that your dog can’t reach them. You can also use hanging baskets to keep any toxic plants up off the ground.
If your dog only has access to the backyard or side yard at your home, consider planting any potentially toxic plants in the front yard.
This is a great choice for those that love the appearance of a flowering plant like the hydrangea or tulip. However, be cautious about planting any toxic plants too close to a door or walkway as your dog may decide to sneak a taste on the way out for their daily walk.
Whether you’re removing the plants from your property entirely or simply moving them to a safer location, don’t forget to dig up any bulbs that may still be in the ground. The toxins that are dangerous to your dog are most concentrated in the bulbs, making the bulbs more dangerous than the plant itself.
If you believe that your dog may have ingested a potentially toxic plant, contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible!
For more information about gardening and your dog, check out the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List.
No matter how you choose to keep your dog safe, creating a dog-friendly garden with your best friend is a perfect activity to kick off spring!
Which poisonous garden plants for dogs were the biggest surprise for you as a dog owner? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!
About the Author: Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.