Of Pets and Poisons
Many of our lovely garden plants are poisonous to children, but children don’t usually go into the garden intending to eat them! We can warn our children away from pretty berries and they will (usually) take notice. But what about our pets? Some plants are absolutely toxic to cats and dogs
For instance, the bulbs or rhizomes of lilliums, iris, lily of the valley and agapanthus are lethal to cats. The poison hidden away in these otherwise delightful plants will destroy your cat’s kidneys completely, should they be ingested. While this sounds like bad news, it’s not very likely that pussycat will dig up the plants especially to have a chew at the roots. On the other hand, some cats love to chew at anything, so if you dig the plants up for any reason just be aware of the problem.
There are also a range of plants that are extremely poisonous to dogs. These are called the dogbanes because they are the bane, or nemesis of dogs. In this case, it is the sap that is the problem; so if you have a mischievous puppy or dog that likes to chew plants in your garden, beware!
Many of the dogbane family come from the tropics, flower for long periods and have sweet perfumes. They include such diverse plants as the frangipanni, the mandevilla group, eg, Brazilian jasmine, oleanders, wintersweet and the vinca family, including the periwinkle. While toxic to dogs, this last plant is saved from a bad reputation by being used in the treatment of diabetes and some cancers.
Garden poisons can also adversely affect your pets. Snail bait can kill a dog or cat very quickly (and painfully) if enough is eaten. It should be placed under something heavy such as rocks, logs or pot plants. Another idea is to use a piece of metal pipe, so long as it is long and narrow enough to exclude animals’ paws and noses. This is a good idea for positioning rat poison, too.
Always keep pets and children off lawns that have been sprayed with weedkillers until the spray has dried and preferably for twenty-four hours afterwards.
Symptoms of poisoning in dogs and cats include stumbling, salivating, vomiting or having seizures, or other unusual behaviours. Take the suspect product or plant with you when you go to the vet.
The shellback or paralysis tick, in those areas affected by this little pest, can also cause some of the above symptoms. It is smaller than the bottle ticks that have a metallic blue colour when full of blood, and larger than the tiny grass tick, which causes nothing more than irritation and itch. If you are unfortunate enough to find one on your pet, it will have a wrinkled back, rather like a shell. Often the first symptom you will notice is that your pet has difficulty walking, for the back legs quickly become paralyzed. These days, an injection will save your pet’s life so long as you get it quickly enough. In the old days, coffee essence was used to stimulate the heart until the animal recovered. But that didn’t always work.
It is wise to keep a tick collar on your dog or cat, or use a pour-on tickicide – poisonous to ticks, but not to our canine and feline friends.