Australia is a huge country – its own continent, after all – so it’s no surprise that the country offers a tremendous variety of native plant species that thrive in various climatic regions. While that is a big plus when you’re out with your dog enjoying a hike and the outstanding scenery, it also means there are a lot of plants you need to learn about. And not only plants you’ll find in the wild.
A surprisingly wide variety of native, garden-domesticated, and even household plants are dangerous – to people as well as pets. Some dogs are determined plant-chewers, whereas others might sniff but won’t do more. Cats are sometimes known to gnaw on a leaf here and there as well.
What plants are problematic?
The RSPCA of New South Wales and others specifically warn cat owners about the dangers posed by lilies.
The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) maintains a comprehensive list of plants that are dangerous to pets. The list is international, so even if you and your pet are in Australia it is an excellent resource. There are actually separate lists for cats and dogs, so if you have just one kind of pet, you can go straight to the most appropriate list.
If plant ID isn’t your strong suit, you can download this 2-page PDF that depicts common Australian plants that are toxic to dogs and cats. Study it closely. Or print it out and post it on your refrigerator.
Mushrooms are often tempting to dogs, especially. Like other countries around the world, Australia has its share of native fungi. It’s hard enough for humans to distinguish one type of mushroom from another to know which ones are safe to eat. For pets, this is impossible. Never allow your dog or cat to eat mushrooms. Even those you purchase in grocery stores can cause digestive problems for pets.
What can go wrong?
As a devoted pet parent, you always want to keep your Dear One safe and healthy, so it is vital to know which plants pose dangers to them. It’s also important to know that some plants are 100% poisonous – that is, every part of the plant contains dangerous chemicals. Often, though, it’s only the seeds, or the leaves, or some other part that is toxic.
Thankfully, most plants that are chemically unsuitable for cats and/or dogs are not actually lethal. But you don’t want your furry companion to suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, swelling, or pain associated with gastrointestinal distress. Certain plants can cause symptoms such as seizures, confusion, difficulty breathing, or loss of balance. And you certainly don’t want to expose her to the potential of systemic health problems such as kidney or liver failure, heart or lung damage.
Some plant poisonings cause only temporary symptoms, but others can cause permanent health problems or death.
What to do?
Keep pets away from plants you know can be dangerous. Keep your dog leashed when she’s out and about with you – on hikes, in city parks, etc. Put a small bag of treats in your pocket, to recapture your dog’s attention if she’s overly interested in some plant and give her a tasty, positive alternative.
Don’t plant anything questionable in your back yard if your dog or cat might chew it. Or fence off flower beds. Don’t let your pets loose in someone else’s yard without checking it out first.
Place houseplants and cut flowers where pets cannot get at them.
Learn how to care for your pet in an emergency. But don’t wait to get help. If your cat or dog ingests part of a plant you know (or even think might be) is poisonous, call your vet immediately. Some toxins work very quickly. Many pet parents don’t realize that body chemistry differs for cats and dogs, so they may respond differently to a particular toxin. In fact, something that affects dogs may not bother cats at all, or vice versa.
Australia is an amazing country to visit or move to with your pet. Just be sure you know which plants may be dangerous and take steps to keep your four-legged friend safe and healthy, so you don’t miss out on any adventures.