3 min read
Fall and Winter Plants that May Pose Hidden Health Risks to Your Dog
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 09/25/2017, edited: 08/10/2021
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It’s that time of year again. School is back in session. The mornings are beginning to get cooler. Birds and geese are chowing down in the local park. Costume stores are popping up in empty storefronts and it seems as if everywhere you turn there’s a pumpkin flavored something just about to hit the shelves. Fall is just around the corner, which means winter is only a scant few months away.
While cooler days and the prospect of snow can equal plenty of opportunities for fun with your doggie family members, fall and winter can also bring with them seasonal specific risks in the form of toxic plants, shrubs, and flowers. While some of the risky flora and fauna may be familiar to pet owners, others are less well-known. Here we break down some of the plants that could pose a threat to your pet’s health this fall and winter.
Poinsettias Pack a Punch
While the colorful winter flowers are among the most famous plants on our list when it comes to their toxic effects on pets, it turns out that the dangers to your dog (or cat even) are greatly exaggerated. Ingesting poinsettias can cause mild vomiting, drooling, or diarrhea in some dogs. Dogs who brush against the plant leaves may also experience mild itching or redness on their skin. Overall, however, the plant’s toxicity levels are low and are far from the most dangerous culprit to watch for in the fall and winter months.
Pine Cones and Falling Nuts
One of the most overlooked dangers to Fido during the latter part of the year is probably lying in wait, right in your local park or back yard. Pine cones and tree nuts can pose health risks to your dog in even small quantities. Pine cones are incredibly difficult to digest and incomprehensibly attractive to would-be chewers. A stomach full of pine cones could equal a trip to the vet to induce vomiting or, in serious cases, even surgical removal of the offending object. Nuts are similarly offensive with hickory, walnuts, and pistachios all containing toxins that could make your dog sick if they decide to forage for these “treats.”
Holly Isn’t So Sweet
Another plant commonly found indoors during the holiday season is winterberry holly, commonly known simply as holly. These attractive green leaves with shiny red berries may look great in pots or decorating wreaths but all parts of the plants are toxic to your pooch. Symptoms of poisoning after ingestion include vomiting, lip-smacking, drooling, head shaking and general depression.
Get the Fungi out of Your Yard
Cooler months with increased moisture and plenty of insulating leaves on the ground create the perfect habitat for our next fall and winter poisonous organism. Wild mushrooms can be toxic or even lethal to your precious pooch. These pernicious fungi like to pop up in areas of low air circulation and indirect exposure to sunlight. Diligent pet owners should dispose of any mushrooms they may find and keep their yards well-groomed and trees trimmed in order to discourage growth and protect the health of their curious pets.
Fruit Trees and Fermentation
While humans may find backyard fruit trees a tasty treat, dogs may find a not so healthy surprise if allowed to gorge on apples, apricots or other fruit that falls into the yard from overhanging trees. Apple seeds contain cyanide, to which dogs are particularly sensitive. All stone fruits contain indigestible pits that can have difficulty passing through your pup’s digestive tract when eaten in large quantities. Finally, fruit that’s allowed to sit on the ground may begin to ferment, creating alcohol sugars that are toxic to your pet. Keep fruit trees well-maintained for the health of both your yard and your dog.
The Fall and Winter Plant Wrap Up
Fall and winter are perfectly lovely seasons for enjoying the great outdoors or snuggling up next to a crackling fire with your beloved dog. This time of the year, however, also brings out plants that are dangerous or even deadly to your dog. While far from an exhaustive list, the above plants, flowers, trees and shrubs should be avoided for optimal health. For full listings of local plants that could prove poisonous to your pooch, contact your local poison control or garden center. A little bit of forethought will have you and Fido avoiding that holiday trip to your local vet.