Hostas can be toxic to pets

Hostas can be toxic to pets (Kim Fernandez, For The Baltimore Sun / April 24, 2013)

A recent post on the Lab Rescue Facebook page broke my heart: a woman wrote that her beloved dog died unexpectedly, and that an autopsy showed that her liver had been completely destroyed. The culprit? Heliotrope, a common flowering plant the woman had on her deck that the dog nibbled on.

Most of us know to watch out for pet-toxic plants around Christmas and Easter, but we don’t think that what’s growing in our yards might be just as dangerous.

I took a look at the ASPCA’s list of pet-toxic plants this morning, and was really surprised to see that some of the things in my yard are dangerous to the Labragator. Hostas, for one, along with azaleas, crabapples, begonias, mums, daisies, elephant ears, holly, jade and tulips. Common plants that are toxic to cats include aloe, apple, baby’s breath, boxwood, carnations, daffodils, foxglove, gardenia and geranium.

We don’t have a fenced yard and the Labragator isn’t allowed out without her leash, but lots of pets are, and some of the plants that are toxic to them taste good. It probably never would have occurred to me that some of the things I’ve used to beautify our yard could kill my sweet girl.

The ASPCA’s list is specific to dogs, cats and horses, and there’s a printable version on the website. They also host a 24-hour poison hotline (888-426-4435) that pet owners can call if they fear their animals have eaten something toxic -- I’m going to save that number in my contacts list today, just in case -- and they urge a visit to the vet if an animal shows unexplained signs of illness. If you know your pet has eaten something toxic, take a sample to the vet with you.

For more information, visit the online ASPCA poison control center or set up a time to talk with your vet.