Important Pet and Plant Safety

When I think of Marijuana I am immediately reminded of my husband’s Grandma Lillian (Lilly), may she rest in peace, who past away at the beautiful old age of 101. Imagine living an entire century-all that she has seen and experienced.  Lilly was as sharp as a tac and perfectly healthy until her loving and kind heart gave way! Listening to Lilly as she reminisced about her life and told her favorite stories was always fascinating. Especially her story about growing Marijuana on her apartment balcony, started from a tiny plant gifted to her by her favorite grandson, my husband!  Lilly loved the intoxicating smell of the little Mary Jane plant (unaware of the medicinal benefits and legal no, no’s) she rooted her little plant with love and tended to it daily decorating her porch with several pots of clippings from the mother plant. Six months later her grandson returned to find a six foot high jungle of the most beautiful marijuana plants imaginable, blanketing every concrete inch of her patio. The plants draped over the balcony reaching to the neighbors below filling the air with a glorious and intoxicating aroma. Lilly was very proud of her garden but not so happy when her grandson explained to her that he would have to cut down her plants because of the possible legal implications of growing this particular plant. Grandma had no idea of the potential risks of continuing to grow her mary Jane plants. Thank goodness she didn’t have any pets in her home, especially a cat, because marijuana can be deadly – as I know, all to well.

Returning home from a quick trip up north when my kids were still in high school I was weary as I entered the house never knowing what I might find or not find. Never did I expect to discover “Lilly”, my feline love who I had nursed to health from a shelter 5 years prior listless on the kitchen floor. I was horrified! We rushed her to the emergency animal hospital where she spent the next 24 hours being prodded, poked and tested for every possible ailment or disease that was causing her to slowly fade away. I was heart broken to say the very least. I loved Lilly just as I loved my own children-the pain and agony of her suffering was awful. Finally the doctors confessed that they could not figure out what it was that was draining the life from Lilly. As a last stitch effort to save her the doctor asked me if it might be possible that Lilly had been given marijuana. Who would have ever thought this possible? They ran the toxicity test for MJ and sure enough Lilly had been poisoned!  Ten hours and $3,000.00 later my beautiful Lilly died. To this day no one has fully confessed to the crime. The truth of the matter is this: kids will be kids and it was an unfortunate accident. My kids didn’t know that giving Lilly marijuana would kill her and most adults are unaware as well. There are many house plants and outdoor plants that can wreck physical havoc on our feline and canine family members. Please be very cautious with the plants you choose to keep in your home and if you are not certain of their toxicity to your pets check with your vet. Below I have listed the common perpetrators.

Pay particular attention to the following list of plants that can be quite toxic to the four-legged members of your family.


Lilies are particularly toxic for cats. The poisonous part of the plant hasn’t yet been identified, so your best bet is to simply avoid lilies around your home if you also have a pet, especially a cat. Exposure to just a tiny amount of the toxin in a lily plant can cause severe or even fatal kidney disease.

Marijuana Plants

If your dog or cat ingests any portion of a cannabis plant, the result can be depression of the central nervous system, loss of coordination, vomiting, lethargy, increased heart rate, seizures, and coma. Marijuana, while still illegal across most of the U.S., has been approved for medicinal use and cultivation in certain states. It’s important for any pet owner who is also growing marijuana in or around their home to take precautions to keep companion animals away from those plants.

Sago Palms

This variety of palm tree is dangerous for both dogs and cats. All parts of the sago are toxic, but especially the “nuts” or seeds. Just a seed or two can make your pet desperately ill with drooling, vomiting, lethargy, seizures and acute liver failure.


The entire tulip plant is toxic to your pet, but the bulbs are more poisonous than the leaves or stems. Tulip bulbs can cause serious gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons

Species of these plants contain grayanotoxin, a compound that will cause your dog or cat gastrointestinal symptoms including bloating, diarrhea and vomiting. Ultimately, ingestion of azaleas or rhododendrons can result in coma, cardiovascular collapse and death.


All varieties of the oleander plant are poisonous for both dogs and cats. This plant contains cardiac glycosides which can cause sudden death from heart failure.

Castor Bean Plants

The castor bean plant is deadly to both dogs and cats. The beans of this plant contain a toxin called ricin. Ricin can bring on abdominal pain and bloating, and swelling of the mouth and any other part of the gastrointestinal tract the bean oil comes in contact with. More serious poisoning can cause twitching, seizures, musculoskeletal convulsions, coma and death.


Cyclamen is a common house plant with roots that are toxic to dogs and cats. The most common symptom from ingestion of cyclamen is gastrointestinal irritation resulting in severe vomiting.


The cilantro plant can cause gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac arrhythmia in your pet.


The yew plant and in fact, all species of the taxus or yew family of plants can cause serious problems for both dogs and cats.


Symptoms of poisoning from the amaryllis, also known as the Easter plant, are vomiting, lethargy and depression.

Autumn Crocus

The autumn crocus, a plant commonly found in gardens and yards, can irritate your pet’s mouth and cause diarrhea and bloody vomiting.

English Ivy

All species of the ivy family contain a toxin called triterpenoids. This substance can cause your pet gastrointestinal irritation which results in abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Peace Lilies and Schefflera

Both these plants contain calcium oxalates can cause severe irritation to your pet’s mouth, esophagus and stomach. Signs your dog or cat has ingested either of these plants are vomiting and diarrhea, drooling and difficulty swallowing.

Pothos Plants

Another very common houseplant is the pothos plant. Both dogs and cats are sensitive to the pothos, which can cause soft tissue irritation in your pet’s mouth resulting in swelling of the tongue and sometimes bleeding of the mucus membranes. If your pet chews on a pothos leaf, he may also have difficulty swallowing.

Learn More about How to Keep Your Pets Safe

There’s a wonderful online resource provided by the ASPCA where you can reference a very comprehensive list of which plants are poisonous to your beloved companion animals and which are safe to have around your home and yard.

The list includes a photo of each plant and can be sorted by toxic and non-toxic categories as well as by type of pet.

If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested a poison and you have questions or need guidance, you can call the ASPCA’s Poison Control Centerhotline at 1-888-426-4435. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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