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Plants and pets: know the facts to keep dogs and cats healthy

No plant says Christmas quite like the poinsettia. But nary a holiday season goes by without poinsettias being negatively associated with pet health.

Yet the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says poinsettias “may be the most misrepresented plant when it comes to toxicity. Since 1919 poinsettias have been called lethal if ingested by pets. However, many animal studies have shown that it is just not true.”

Relatively few plant and flower species are dangerous to pets, and the effects can range widely.

As the ASPCA notes, poinsettias and other holiday plants are not good for pets to ingest, potentially irritating the mouth and stomach and sometimes causing vomiting, but generally are “over-rated in toxicity.”

The same can’t be said about lilies and cats. Eating just a couple of leaves or licking a few pollen grains off their fur can quickly cause kidney failure, according to CBS News.

“A cat that’s eaten part of a lily will vomit soon afterwards, but this may gradually lessen after two to four hours. Within 12 to 24 hours, the cat may start to urinate frequently. Urination may then stop if kidney failure occurs. If untreated, a cat will die within four to seven days after eating a lily.”

This is the case for any true lily — belonging to the plant genus Lilium — including Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily and certain species of daylily.

In contrast, the calla lily, peace lily, lily of the valley and Peruvian lily (alstroemeria) are not true lilies and won’t cause kidney failure in cats although they have other toxic principles, according to the Pet Poison Helpline.

If you love plants and pets, then it’s a good idea to consider which ones are the best fit for your home. Here are several resources:

The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center offers an exhaustive, sortable list of plants that are toxic or non-toxic to dogs and cats. The list focuses on plants “that have been reported as having systemic effects on animals and/or intense effects on the gastrointestinal tract,” according to the ASPCA, which cautions that the list is not meant to be all-inclusive.

If you think your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, the ASPCA suggests contacting your veterinarian or its 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

The Humane Society offers an informative — and highly alliterative — list of “plants potentially poisonous to pets.”

The Pet Poison Helpline offers its Top 10 Plants Poisonous to Pets.

Of course, as the Pet Poison Helpline notes:

“While there are thousands of species of plants and flowers, only a small percentage of plants are truly dangerous and poisonous to your pet.”

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