5 min read


Can Dogs Smell Flowers?



5 min read


Can Dogs Smell Flowers?


There's nothing more beautiful than spring flowers that start blooming after the cold winter days are behind us. It always makes walks longer and more enjoyable, and as the saying goes, we should all stop and smell the roses. But, this begs the question, can your dog smell them too?

This also opens a can of worms as to what their effects are on them if they can. We are discussing dogs and their senses to get a better understanding of the pooch’s sniffer. 


Signs Your Dog is Smelling a Flower

Quite simply, yes, dogs can smell flowers! With powerful noses, this doesn't come as a big surprise and they can even help differentiate different types of them. Some dogs will stop by and sniff a flower in bloom, while other might just walk by them and not react at all. However, others might mistake them for a quick bite. Interacting and ingesting flowers, whether they are sniffed or eaten, can get dangerous because not all beautiful flowers are harmless.

If your dog ingests or sniffs a toxic flower or plant, they will show a number of symptoms. But the symptoms depend on the plant itself. Behaviorally, these are signs to look out for.

  • Head tilting – if the toxin work on your dog’s nervous system, your dog might show signs like tilting his or her head, inability to stand or walk and tremors.
  • Cowering – the dog might signal that something is wrong by cowering. Try looking for other signs if you notice that your dog is cowering.
  • Scratching – toxins that cause irritation of the mouth or nose will prompt your dog to scratch at their mouths as if they are trying to remove something.
  • Pacing – the dog might become nervous because their stomach is upset, or they are experiencing neurological issues.
  • Weakness – because many plants cause vomiting and diarrhea (body’s natural reaction to toxins), your dog might become very weak, as they will probably lose their appetite completely. 

The most common symptoms of toxic plant ingestion in dogs include the following: vomiting, diarrhea, changes in urine, and drooling. But, it’s important to be aware that the most toxic part of the plant is often the bulb, and if eaten, can result in the dog having an upset stomach, stomach pain, and no appetite at all. 

For dogs that like to dig, this can present a problem and sniffing closely at the bulbs can still get a reaction. Bulbs of plants that blooms or have berries are especially worrisome as they often have much higher toxin concentrations. 

Body Language

Signs your pooch may display if they have gotten too close to a toxic flower include:

  • Head Tilting
  • Cowering
  • Scratching
  • Pacing
  • Weakness

Other Signs

Other signs to watch out for are:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea

History of Dogs Sniffing Flowers


Historically, dogs weren't as leisurely and domesticated as they are now so it's not like they were stopping to sniff flowers in the wild. However, food was often scarce, particularly in winter, which could lead to them foraging for food in the form of plant bulbs. This undoubtedly meant the end of the road for some wild dogs who mistakenly ate poisonous plants or bulbs but there is no evidence to suggest that dogs will avoid  certain plants because they know they are poisonous.

Science Behind Flower Toxicity to Dogs


Every toxic plant has their own specific symptoms, depending on the type of toxin that is found in the plant. Some toxins might just cause irritation, while others will cause bleeding disorders, neurological damage or organ failure. It’s very important to know which flowers are toxic to dogs to keep your pet away from any danger. The most commonly found flowers that pose a danger to your dog include the following:

  • Daffodil – this delicate yellow bloom is considered poisonous to dogs in its entirety, but the Daffodil bulb that is the most toxic. If your dog eats any part of it, they will experience diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and might develop very serious symptoms like convulsions, arrhythmias and blood pressure drop.
  • Bishop’s Weed - often causes dermatitis and sunburn in dogs.
  • Begonia – a very common garden plant that can cause vomiting and salivation in dogs.
  • Tulip – the tulip is toxic in its entirety, with the bulb being the most poisonous to dogs. The tulip can cause oral irritation, drooling and nausea.
  • Autumn Crocus – the whole plant is toxic, but the bulbs are the worst. If your dog ingests this plant, you will have to rush them to the veterinary clinic immediately. The toxin in this plant can cause vomiting, shock, organ damage, even bone marrow suppression.
  • Azalea – if your dog eats leaves from this plant, they will experience vomiting and diarrhea, and in severe cases, blood pressure drop. If the dog ingests a big amount of leaves, it can even be fatal.
  • Sago Palm - The Sago Palm is an extremely poisonous plant to dogs when ingested, and very fatal. It causes bloody vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure, bleeding disorders.
  • Oleander – often found in the Southern United States and California, this plant is very toxic to dogs and can cause heart abnormalities, tremors, incoordination, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. It can even be fatal.
  • Amaryllis - popular during Easter time, this plant can cause depression, vomiting, hypersalivation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anorexia, and tremors in dogs.

Training Dogs Around Plants


Dogs are curious by nature, especially when they are puppies. Very often, just smelling an object won’t do, and they will try to nip it. This can lead to potentially very dangerous situations when it comes to poisonous plants and blooms.

If you suspect that your dog might have ingested a toxic plant, do not try anything on your own. The first and most important reaction should be to immediately call a vet and get to a clinic asap. Any type of home medicine won’t do any good, unless you were expressly instructed by the vet to do so. 

The widest spread tip for pet poisoning by ingestion is to induce vomiting, but this can often make matters even worse, so it should not be done without supervision from a vet who often have specific medication to help. In order to keep your pet safe, the best thing to do is to check all the plants you have in your garden and other places (houseplants) your dog can reach easily. Before planting anything, check whether it’s safe for your dog (or any other pet, for that matter).

It is highly unlikely that simply sniffing plants is fatal, but it is important to avoid the risk just in case. If your dog is persistent in nipping plants, pay close attention to what they are doing when going to new parks and grounds, and make sure to have the situation under control at all times.

Training to avoid nipping or heeling on a lead in public spaces can reduce the risk of your dog straying and ingesting something lethal!  

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Plant Safety With Dogs:

  1. Always check your garden for the types of plants you grow and remove those that are not dog (or pet) friendly.
  2. When in public or new areas, scout and make sure there are no immediate plant problems.
  3. Read up on the types of poisonous plants that are native to your area so you can be prepared and easily spot them when on the move.

Written by Charlotte Ratcliffe

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/01/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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