Photo by A. LeeDon’t you love Spring, with its mild weather, green grass, and flowers everywhere?

But it’s also time for a reminder that some of the things we associate with this season can be harmful to pets and wildlife.

Many plants are toxic when eaten, but bulbs are among the worst. To a dog, a tulip bulb looks a lot like a ball; small bulbs may look like treats. Most dogs will eat first and think later!

In the best case, only the bulb is a problem, and mainly causes irritation in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Typical signs are drooling, vomiting, abdominal pain, or in severe cases, respiratory or cardiac abnormalities. In the worst case, especially lilies, every part of the plant is toxic, especially to cats.

Lilies are extremely dangerous for cats. For instance, if your cat goes outside and simply brushes against the flowers in your neighbor’s yard, the pollen that sticks to her fur, that she later licks off, can be enough to cause acute, fatal  kidney failure. Symptoms may include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Unusual thirst
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Scanty or absent urination
  • Seizures
  • Death

Toxic bulbs include:

  • Lilies (any plants in the Lilium and Hermerocallis genera), including Tiger lilies, Day lilies, Easter lilies, and Wood, Stargazer, Red, Western, Asiatic, and Japanese Show lilies. Peace, Calla and Peruvian are not true lilies, although the oxalate crystals they contain can still cause significant irritation to the mouth and throat. Lily of the Valley can cause cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Tulips (Tulipa)
  • Hyacinth (Hyacinthus)
  • Daffodils (Narcissus)
  • Crocuses (including fall-blooming Colchicum autumnale as well as more common spring crocuses, which are in the Iris [Iridaceae] group)
  • Irises (Iridaceae)
  • Amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna)
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)
  • Trillium (Trillium)
  • Begonia (Begonia spp.)
  • Gladiola (Gladiolus spp.)
  • Buttercup (Ranunculus spp)

If you have bulbs planted in your garden, or if you bring a plant or bouquet indoors, be cautious. For garden plants, you may want to consider fencing to keep critters out. Indoor plants need to be secured well away from pets. Many cats have been poisoned by chewing on plants that a guardian was absolutely sure they couldn’t get to! (For more poisonous and dangerous plants, click here.)

If you know or suspect that your cat has chewed on or been exposed to lilies, contact your veterinarian immediately. Early, aggressive treatment is her best chance for survival.

There are other spring dangers that we need to be aware of, such as fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and other chemicals commonly used in gardens. Even blood meal and bone meal can cause problems for dogs, foxes, and coyotes. Cocoa mulch contains theobromine and caffeine, the same toxic elements as chocolate, and can be harmful to a dog who ingests it. So keep your yard safe, and lock up all garden products and tools when you’re through using them!

Of course, be on the lookout for lawns and parks that your dog may walk on that have been treated with chemicals. There should be little yellow flags to that effect posted on the property.

Between knowledge and common sense, we can prevent problems, and keep Spring a happy season for our four-legged friends!

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