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In the spring there is often a great interest in setting up and planting beautiful flower gardens that are going to provide the family with lovely floral arrangements and outdoor attractions throughout the growing season. In addition flowers in the yard, garden and patio add to the wildlife in your outdoor space as butterflies, colorful insects and even hummingbirds are all likely to drop by for a visit.
The downside of many of the most commonly grown flowers and bulbs within our pots, containers and gardens is that they are highly toxic to dogs and even to people as well. Since they are common many people mistakenly belief they are "safe" plants and often do not recognize the early signs of poisoning from the plants. The other thing to keep in mind is that typically not all parts of the plant are actually toxic or as toxic. In many plants only the flowers or only the leaves are problematic, while other species of plants the whole plant can cause the problem. In some cases, especially with bulbs, it is the root structure that is particularly dangerous to your pets.
There is a common misconception among many pet owners that somehow dogs are smart enough to figure out what is possibly toxic and to avoid it. In reality dogs will eat or play with anything that appeals to them at the moment, including highly toxic plants and other materials. In fact many dogs that have had one bout of poisoning or toxicity because of eating a specific plant will go right back to the same plant and repeat the process multiple times. It is therefore important to keep in mind that if your dog is a chewer, digger or highly playful with branches and other types of plant material you will need to be extra cautious about what types of plants you have in your flower beds and gardens.
Some of the most toxic plants, as mentioned above, are those that are grown from bulbs. These plants are potentially hazardous to your dog all year round since it is the root or bulb that is located under ground that is the most problematic. Dogs that love to dig are most likely to find roots or bulbs fun to play with, often causing significant reactions to contact with the plant parts. Since the dogs may actually consume the bulbs, it may be difficult for owners to know exactly what their dog ate that is causing the symptoms.
Bulbs that are particularly toxic or poisonous include most of the spring flowers we all love to see, the tulips, daffodils, lilies and most of the iris plants. Amaryllis, which are sometimes planted as outdoor bulbs, especially in warmer, southern climates can also be a problem. One bulb that is particularly problematic is the Lily of the Valley, a very small lily that is often grown in areas of shade and damp soil. Most bulbs produce several gastrointestinal reactions including vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, abdominal pain and even at high levels of toxicity neurological conditions such as tremors and seizures. Although rare, very high levels of ingestion in relation to the dog's weight, age and size can be fatal. Keep in mind that the smaller the dog the less that he or she needs to consume to be a fatal or very serious dose.
Other flowering bushes and shrubs that are often used as borders or even low hedges can be a problem for dogs. Thes types of plants are very hardy and often can withstand a fair amount of dog wear and tear which is why they are a favorite in landscaping. In some cases it is only the berries or flowers of these shrubs or bushes that are a problem, while in other plants the bark or leaves may also cause skin rashes and allergic reactions. Some common shrubs or flowering bushes used in gardens that can potentially be hazardous to dogs include azaleas, boxwood and hydrangea. All of these bushes or flowering shrubs cause both gastrointestinal reactions as well as producing low to mild levels of cyanide, which can be fatal in large quantities.
Flowers of all sorts can be a real problem for your dog. Some dogs will have allergic reactions to the pollen produced by flowers, both as an airborne allergen as well as by direct contact with the skin. Often if dogs eat, lick or sniff at flowers you will notice red, hive-like rashes including blisters, lesions and dry or irritated looking skin around and inside the mouth and nose. In most cases rinsing the area with warm, clear water and applying a topical antihistamine lotion or gel will help alleviate any discomfort the dog is feeling on the skin. Antihistamines can also be used to stop sneezing and other allergic reactions, but it will be important to monitor your dog to find out what flowers or plants he or she is spending time in and around. Some of the most problematic flowers, including stems and leaves, are Buttercups, Bluebonnets, Foxglove, Morning Glory and Larkspur. Sometimes just a problematic are flowers of the lantana and jasmine families of plants.
Vines and greenery is also a problem, largely because they grow in shady places where dogs love to rest and relax in the heat of the day. The dog often chews these vines and more woody type of plants on, resulting in toxicity problems as well as lip and mouth sores and ulcers. Most of the ivy group of plants can be mildly to moderately poisonous, typically resulting in neurological as well as digestive types of symptoms. Matrimony vine, a plant of the Lycium family is extremely toxic to dogs and even a minor amount ingested can result in significant neurological complications and even death.
Knowing exactly what types of plants and flowers to put in your garden can be a challenge if you have a younger puppy or dog or a dog that is prone to digging and chewing. There are many different reference websites for pet owners and gardeners to help you identify safe species as well as avoid planting something that may be a particular hazard. Of course there are also options of fencing off your garden spot, just remember that fences often don't stop a really determined dog and gates sometimes get left open. Planting potential problem plants outside of the dog's yard may be the best option of all.
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