Courtesy of the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society

With people spending more time outdoors gardening, many generally do not give much thought to the plants they include both in their yards and in their homes, beyond the care instructions and how they can add to the aesthetic appeal. While homeowners may know if a plant likes the sun or shade, they often are unaware of its potential for toxicity to their beloved pets, who are prone to ingesting the plants in their yard that are inedible. This is particularly dangerous for curious pets that may sniff and nibble plants when exploring their environments.

For dogs and cats that spend time outdoors, it’s best to be aware of these potentially toxic plants.

  • Autumn crocus: There are various types of crocus plants, but the one most toxic to dogs is autumn crocus. The entire plant is toxic, but the highest concentration of toxic agent is found in the bulbs.
  • Sago palm: People in warm climates may enjoy the look of palm trees on their properties. Despite its tropical and relaxing appearance, the Sago palm is extremely poisonous if ingested by pets, with the seeds being the most toxic part.
  • Lily: Lilies are highly toxic to cats in particular. Even grooming pollen off of their fur or drinking water out of a vase where lilies are kept may cause kidney failure.
  • Tulips and hyacinth: These early bloomers are beautiful flowers, but each contains a similar alkaloid toxin that is mild to moderately toxic to pets. Again, the highest concentration is found in the bulbs, which dogs or cats may dig up while exploring.
  • Aloe vera: This soothing succulent may be part of an arid climate landscape. Aloe contains saponin, a toxin with foaming properties that can harm pets if ingested and cause severe dehydration.
  • Begonia: A popular outdoor and houseplant, begonia has decorative flowers and attractive leaves. However, the plant can be toxic to cats and dogs if ingested, particularly the underground tubers.
  • Azalea: This flowering shrub produces flowers in many colors, so it’s often present in household landscapes. It’s important to note that azaleas can be toxic to dogs and cats.
  • Yew: American, Canadian, and Japanese yew shrubs may be found around properties, which produce small red berries with green centers (almost looking like the reverse of a Spanish olive with pimento). Yew is toxic to cats and dogs.
  • Dahlia: Dahlia produce flowers in different colors, so they are common in flower beds. However, these plants also are mildly toxic to pets.

Toxic plants can irritate a pet’s gastrointestinal system, potentially resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. If you suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, available 24/7 at 888-426-4435, to learn how to respond to possible exposure. If care is needed, follow up with your veterinarian or local emergency pet care center.

The Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society consists of more than 75 small animal hospitals and 200 practitioners in Erie and Niagara counties. Learn more at