Every pet owner knows that one of the most fundamental characteristics of animals is curiosity. Our pets have a childlike innocence and fascination with the unknown that keeps us entertained but also makes us wary of the dangerous situations they might get themselves into. This is especially true when it comes to what they consume. Both dogs and cats are prone to ingesting plants that can make them sick, cause dermatitis, or even worse, prove fatal. This is why it is important for every pet owner and plant lover to know which plants are toxic to their pets, and which ones are beneficial to their health.
When we first adopted our dog, Maggie, our walks often consisted of her stopping every now and then to sample the weeds and grasses around us. Her interest in eating these plants made me wonder if I should be concerned and prompted some research and a discussion with my friend and veterinarian, Dr. Carol Falck. She assured me that this was normal and I had nothing to worry about for Maggie. She even said older animals can be selective with what plants they try, meaning they have some awareness as to which plants are poisonous. When it comes to grass, both dogs and cats love eating it and doing so can be a healthy addition to their diet. No one really knows exactly why our pets enjoy eating grass so much and thus, there are a variety of theories on the subject. Some believe dogs sometimes do it as a means of making themselves vomit when they are feeling sick. Others think animals do it out of boredom, to improve digestion, to supplement a dietary need, or simply because they’re fond of the taste or feel.
Encouraged by my findings with Dr. Falck, I wanted to know more about what pet-friendly plants I could introduce into my garden that would provide Maggie with a mid-day snack while also improving her overall well-being. I learned that plants like valerian, kale, and mint are specifically beneficial to the health of dogs, while catnip, lemon grass, and chamomile are great for cats.
Some plants that are dangerous for pets but popular in many gardens include azalea, rhododendron, begonia, foxglove, juniper, lantana, and lily.
As with everything, it is important to note that even the pet-friendly plants should always be consumed by our pets within moderation and alongside a balanced diet. ASPCA.org has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs, cats, and horses. If your pet starts to exhibit severe symptoms like persistent vomiting, contact your veterinarian immediately or the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.