Cool Green Gardens

Protect Your Pets from Poisonous Plants: Biff’s Ordeal


As I came up the steps, Lin’s voice was urgent. “We need to take Biff to the vet, right away.”

It was early evening and we’d been out for a bite. While we were away, Biff found and ate a small box of raisins that was in a bag, that was in another bag, that was under a stack of newspapers, that were on the kitchen table, that was surrounded by chairs (that lived in the house … never mind – this is serious). It doesn’t matter how he did it. Maybe aside from me lovingly calling him Biff the Wonder Spaniel, he also has radically major ninja skills.

Dogs (and cats) and raisins don’t get along. Kidney failure.

Ten minutes later we were at Santa Barbara’s CARE Hospital, grateful that the 24-hour emergency and critical care facility had reopened under new ownership just a few months earlier.

Biff spent two nights in their loving, attentive care, in a cage (he’s used to hogging the bed, testing if his stubby sausage tail fits inside my nostril), front leg shaved to take the IV tube, probably wondering why his humans had misplaced him, and missing his Wi-Fi access. (I’m kidding about the Wi-Fi; his iPhone was in the shop.)

For Lin and I, it was days of worry and deep pangs of guilt. We had an ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) brochure in a drawer somewhere listing all the toxic stuff our opposably-thumbed species should be more vigilant about: medicines, fertilizer, anti-freeze, cleaning products.

And plants.

Have you ever received a gift azalea, pinkly lighting up a winter living room? Narcissus bulbs, coaxed to bloom indoors while the rest of your garden is buried under glistening Christmas snow? Tulips? Begonias, with their angelic wings and soft pastel rosettes? Oh, and all those lusciously green tropicals, like philodendron, spathiphyllum, pothos, and schefflera.

These are just a handful of the 392 plants listed at the ASPCA’s website, along with foods, household items, and “recreational” items that put pets at risk every day. Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants lists dozens that could just as easily snuff out an NFL line-backer, but also cause your pet a world of hurt-or take them from us permanently.

Depending on which toxin a pet gets into and how much they consume, symptoms can include oral irritation, drooling, vomiting, the runs, depression, loss of coordination, organ damage, bone marrow suppression, tremors, cardiac failure, seizures, coma, or death.

Had enough?

This doesn’t mean you should clear-cut and pave your garden, or banish every chlorophyll-laden life form from your house. But it does mean that all of us plant and animal lovers need to educate ourselves and take responsible actions to assure we’re truly looking out for our trusting pets’ welfare.

ASPCA logo


So here’s what you can do.

Visit the ASPCA’s animal poison control web page and familiarize yourself with their advisories. There are other links leading to lists of toxic and non-toxic plants, the 17 most common toxic plants, and Animal Poison Control FAQs.

Then look around, inside and out, for the stuff that puts your pooch or puddy tat in harm’s way. Put those plants and products REALLY out of reach, lock up harmful substances, or get rid of them.

I’m not a vet, but common sense tells me that if your pet’s behavior suddenly changes, or you see any of the symptoms I listed above, contact your veterinarian immediately, or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Biff is fine now. We acted quickly and he was under their care before developing any serious symptoms. (Or he might have staged the whole thing, opening the raisin box, removing the contents, climbing inside the chimney and stashing the dried fruits inside – I did say he was a Wonder Spaniel, and he does have his dad’s sense of humor.)

I could think of better ways to part with $1000 than to leave it with the pet hospital, not to mention the emotional cost. We’re shopping around for pet insurance (there are lots of plans on-line, or check with your vet for a recommendation).

I’m guessing you’ve heard of Garfield, the comic strip cat who, despite his voracious appetite, won’t touch raisin cookies. He says he won’t eat anything that’s good for him. Turns out he’s doing the right thing, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.

View Comments


  1. GardeningJones 07/01/2011

    Thanks so much for this- glad your puppy is doing well.
    We have a Great Dane/Lab mix- who can reach anything as high as even slightly hanging from the fridge top.
    I'll remember to keep the raisins in the fridge -he can open the freezer to get 'cubes' but hasn't mastered the refrigerator door.

    Sending a 'Woof Woof' from our dog to yours (Biff will know what it means), and sharing with my fellow animal lovers on FB.


  2. soilgoil 07/06/2011

    Years ago I almost lost a beloved cat who had nibbled an exotic house plant. After weeks of teetering on the edge of death, and approximately $1500 in vet bills, Poki pulled through. While I still have house plants, I'm now careful to keep them well out of the reach of pets.

  3. solwaste 07/13/2011

    I'm very glad that Biff is OK and hope you have recovered too. On another subject - you don't say what your profession is but if you're not a writer, you should be. Your article was perfectly balanced between the serious and the humorous and, as I was reading, I was conscious of eagerly looking forward to each new sentence. Outstanding!

  4. tactywmef 07/01/2013

    Fake Oakley Sunglasses Sale ,Oakley sunglasses to get a class itself, it's got proved to be an actual fashion craze, and also have found their distance to some well-known Hollywood film. In your life, some sunglasses, for your T-shirt and jeans, optical single range of products, children's play stars a strong sense of nostalgia sweeping the style industry. Ray Ban Outlet ,Maybe you are inside a family, skating within the beach, or merely nursing your hangover, cheap Oakley sunglasses to share your perfect accessories. Everybody would like to wear designer clothing and accessories, can offer detection of the appeal, because everyone really worship the center of attention. Cheap Oakley Radarlock ,These athletes to wear OAKLEY cheap Oakley sunglasses available for sale, is worth respect. Oakley that they represent the spirit in the OAKLEY fashion, that Lance Armstrong patent.
    oakleys sunglasses block direct sunlight not only a tool, but play another role - decoration. For all strong sense of self-expression, expression to be a lifestyle and personality. Selecting brown lenses provides an excellent sense of color vision, despite if wearing a specific distinction between, color, tinted lenses can discount Oakley sunglasses to close the radiation of sunshine, smooth and shining surface of the glare from the sun. The phenomenon of destructive interference is determined by the refractive index of the lens (ie, the amount of deviation) occurs, the light from the air over the material, but in addition utilizes the thickness on the lens. Oakley Penny Sunglasses strength to weight ratio is amazing, the feeling is surprisingly light. You'll find three suitable to carry the lens precise optical alignment of comfort as well as. Oakley tonal range can be quite large and you may be search the style-oriented, or maybe sports-oriented sunglasses, there's a made for your needs are!
    Oakley sunglasses inside the wholesale, retail and agency, as the industry pioneer, will itself right very full-range of brands given the grade of leisure. The brand use a polarized, hydrophobic, light-induced discoloration from the lens and RX Sun, in order to ensure the security on the eye, as well as an engaged lifestyle. Actually, the women is pure like they are not just elegant and modern, but additionally very comfortable to work with, durable, very affordable price. This spring is often a stylish sunglasses charm, to get producing these slices border sunglasses Oakley sunglasses to relieve the purchase price using sunglasses warehouse, and many more valuable.

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest