April showers bring May flowers…which may be toxic!

posted on May 02, 2014 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

As the rains fall, we look forward to the spring flowers that will soon be blooming.  While their bright colors remind us of warmer days coming, they may pose a hazard to our pets.

There are a number of toxic spring flowers that are common in our yards this time of year.  These include things like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, lily of the valley, rhododendrons, and azaleas.

Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths are part of the same family and contain a chemical which can cause drooling, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, increased heart rate, abdominal cramping, abnormal breathing, or cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats or rhythm).  The bulb contains the highest concentration of this chemical, but all parts of the plant contain some, so if your pet has ingested a daffodil, tulip, or hyacinth veterinary attention should be sought.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are also from the same family.  These plants contain a chemical that is toxic to muscles in the body.  This leads to clinical signs such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, irregular heart rate and beat, low blood pressure, weakness, tremors, and depression.  In severe cases it can lead to blindness (usually temporary), seizures, and coma.  Prognosis is generally good with treatment, so if you see your pet ingest one of these plants or if you are concerned that your pet may have, please contact us.

Lily of the Valley also blooms this time of year, and is perhaps one of the more toxic plants talked about today.  Lily of the Valley is not a true lily, so it does not cause the kidney failure other lilies can (yes, most lilies are toxic).  Instead, it contains chemicals that affect the heart.  Signs of ingestion can start with vomiting or diarrhea, but progress to a slow heart rate, arrhythmias, seizures, and can be fatal if left untreated.  If your pet is showing these signs or you know they ingested lily of the valley, contact a veterinarian immediately.

These are just a small sample of common flowers that may be toxic to our furry friends.  Both Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA have excellent websites for checking if plants are toxic.  If there is any question whether your pet got into a toxic plant or if your pet is exhibiting any of the signs listed above, please contact us.

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