Poisonous Plants and Your Pets

Taking care of your pet involves a lot more than feeding, watering, exercising, and taking them to the vet when needed. Pet parents should also be aware of the toxins in their pet’s environment and take precautions to avoid them. Some of these toxins are in live plants!

Nancy Sodel’s three year old Doberman Pinscher Cole ingested part of a Sago Palm and later passed from Sago Palm toxicity. In Cole’s memory, she authored two different informational brochures, with information from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control. To learn what toxic plants to avoid, read below:

Sago Palm Male Plant

Sago Palm – Male Plant

Sago Palms contain multiple toxins, with the most potent being Cycasin. Even with aggressive treatment, the survival rate for Cycasin toxicity in animals is only about 50%. In humans, Cyacasis not only causes liver failure, but is a neurotoxin as well. Therefore it is important to not only keep pets away from Sagos and other toxic palms, but to keep young children away from them as well. In the southern United States, Sago Palms (also commonly sold under the names of Coontie Palm, Cardboard Palm, Cycad or Zami) grow throughout Florida, most of Louisiana and in the southern reaches of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. In the western United States, their growing area includes much of Texas, Arizona, and California. Outside of the United States, they are found in the New World tropics, southern Africa, south and east Asia, Australia, and the south Pacific. In Australia, loss of cattle afflicted with the “zamia staggers” led to government cycad-eradication campaigns. This family of palm plants are not only found in outdoor landscapes, but as ornamental houseplants as well. While most toxic plants warn potential predators with a foul odor or bitter taste, the Sago Palm is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Because Sagos do not have these typical distractors, animals do not instinctively know not to eat or chew on the plants or the seed pods. The following palms are also TOXIC:

Cardboard palm

Cardboard palm

King Sago

King Sago

Cycad Palm

Cycad Palm

King Sago

King Sago

Coontie Palm

Coontie Palm

Ornamental cardboard palm

Ornamental cardboard palm

Ornamental Sago Palm

Ornamental Sago Palm

WARNING! Due to the toxic components in these palms, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any part of the plant, as well as to wash your clothing and any gardening tools that came into contact with the plants.

In addition to these palms, the following plants are also toxic:

Peace Lily

Spathiphyllim in peace lilies contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause causeoral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue.


Cyclamen contains cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion. Cyclamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported.

Castor bean fruits

In Castor Bean, the poisonous principle is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases can result in muscle twitching, seizures, coma, and death.


Schefflera and Brassaia actonophylla 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.


Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, 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.


All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects – including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, and even death.


Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale (Crocus) by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage, and bone marrow suppression.


Members of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that with even ingestion of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.


The bulb of Narcissus spp. contains toxins that cause intense GI irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.


Chrysanthemums are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins that may produce GI upset including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. With heavy consumption, depression and loss of coordination may also develop.


Kalanchoe contains components that can produce GI irritation, as well as seriously affecting cardiac rhythm and rate.


The bulb portions of Tulipa spp. contains toxins that can cause intense GI irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.


Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system, incoordination, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, seizures and coma. Since passing medical marijuana licensing in Colorado, that state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of pets with marijuana poisoning.


Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.


More commonly known as Philodendron, if chewed or ingested, Pothos can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

All information courtesy of “Sago Palms and Other Toxic Palms” and “15 Poisonous Indoor & Outdoor Plants” brochures authored by Nancy Sodel and designed by Elizabeth Barrett. Information originally sourced from ASPCA Animal Poison Control.


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