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06 Jan 2018 15:35
Is that beautiful landscaping a threat to your pet's health? 
After we sign all the papers, time to landscape that new property. After meeting with several landscapers, you will pick the plants and hardscape. Soon, you can sit back and enjoy. As you settle in with a favorite drink and fire up the BBQ, the family dog wanders through the foliage, sniffing, possibly digging, maybe even tasting.

No harm, right? Dogs do what dogs do best.

However, Tony Knight, Master Gardener and Professor Emeritus in Vetinerian Medicine, recently shared in a talk about Murderous Plants that many common household, landscape, and wildlife plants are poisonous. The 'murderous' effects of the poison on humans and animals are determined by the dosage.

Recently, an article posted at, warned ". . . the most commonly reported plants with the potential to produce life-threatening problems in pets were Lily, Azalea, Oleander, Sago Palm and Castor Bean."

Are any of these in your garden? Moreover, that is not the extent of poisonous plants in Southern Arizona. According to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center website, more than 20 plants are dangerous, either to touch or eat. Included are Candelabras Cactus, Carolina jessamine, Lantana, Oleander, and Silver Leaf Night Shade.

Night Shade is a weedy shrub that grows wild in Arizona up to an elevation of 5,000 feet. I have seen it along the walking trails here in the Ranch and in some landscaping. Check out all twenty plants.

So, what is in your landscape? Oleander? Lantana? Carolina jessamine? Here is what you need to know to protect your pet beyond keeping them away from the culprits. Know the symptoms.

According to Dr. Safdar Khan Veterinary Toxicologist at the ASPCA Animal Control Center, "All parts of the Oleander plant (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 cardiac function, a significant drop in body temperature (hypothermia) and even death." Dr. Khan points out that awareness is the key to preventing accidental plant poisonings.

According to Professor Knight, some of the most 'murderous plants' in Arizona are native wildflowers, such as; Water Hemlock (obviously near water), False Queen Anne’s Lace (Poison Hemlock), Angel’s Trumpet (Nightshade or Datura), and Camus Lily (found in the foothills). One of the most deadly 'murderous plants' Knight discussed was the Castor Bean plant. According to my research, all parts of the Castor Bean plant are potentially deadly, depending on dosage, because the plant contains Ricinus communis or Ricin, a highly toxic protein that causes severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness, and loss of appetite.

As Dr. Khan points out, if you suspect your pet was exposed, do not delay. "... it is important that you act quickly..." Contact your local veterinarian or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Plan and be prepared. Research the nearest 24-hour animal hospital. Keep the information at hand. Additionally, consider making some changes to that beautiful landscape.

Kay Lantow, SBR resident and pet sitter for Loving Pet Care.