The best way to liven up your home is to have pets or plants or even both. Pets give you a social interaction that is more low maintenance than a child or a friend and an unwavering loyalty.
Plants give character to your house. You can have flowering plants inside, sprawling plants outside, and small ones inside the room.
However, the usual problem with this is that some succulents harm our dogs and cats. The next thing you know your dog keeps scratching up the same spot because of a plant-caused irritation.
Succulents, or plants that have high water content inside, are one usually a topic in conversations among pet-owners or gardeners.
Are succulents poisonous to cats or dogs? Or is it just a myth that got stuck with us.
are succulents toxic to cats? yes, Some succulents are harmful to pets. When ingested in large amounts, effects range from mild to serious to fatal. Mild means skin irritation, serious means vomiting and off-rhythm heartbeat, while fatal means the end of your pet’s life. However, the percentage of pet-harmful succulents is just low. There are still a lot of succulents you can buy which are totally safe with your dog or cat.
If you are interested or, most importantly, have pets and succulents in your house, read on to find out Succulents That Are Poisonous to Cats and Dogs & Their Safe Alternatives.
Can your pets be harmed by succulents?
Yes, but not all. Pets are prone to touching, licking, and even ingesting anything that interests them.
If you buy your plants and you already have pets, a quick search online will tell you what plants to avoid. To be more sure, call a gardener friend or your pet’s veterinarian.
Take note that the majority of succulents are safe to pets. Only a select few, which most are always bought as an indoor plant, are harmful.
Common effects of succulent poisoning
Succulents have become more of a staple in most households. It adds a fresh look to the house without taking up a lot of space.
However, some succulents, and other plants, can do more harm than good. Here are the common effects of succulent poisoning to pets.
1. Loss of appetite
If your dog does not finish his/her meal even when the dog usually does, start investigating. There are many causes to it and succulent poisoning is one of them.
Appetite loss will lead to further weakening of your dog or cat which will weaken their immune system too.
It is important to know that you should not force feed your dog to compensate the past days he/she has eaten poorly.
This could make your dog vomit if his body is not ready yet for that amount of food.
2. Vomiting and bowel problems
Just like humans, when our body senses that we ingested something harmful, it will do its best to expel it. Most of the time, this happens through vomiting and diarrhea.
This will make your pet weak and dehydrated since a lot of liquids are going out from his/her body. Always have a bowl of water nearby.
It can be either nausea or a fever. Your pet will usually walk slower (or not at all), stop barking, and is unresponsive.
If your pet is feeling warm, then pat him/her with a damp towel. If your pet is feeling cold, do not let him/her lie down on the floor.
Instead, have your pet sleep on top of a thick rug and even cover him/her with a blanket if necessary.
4. Coughing and respiratory problems
When a dog is trying to cough, it wants to expel something from its mouth, throat, or stomach. You will also hear that your pet is breathing weirdly as if it is struggling to inhale and exhale.
5. Skin irritation
Since succulents are fleshy plants, most of them have a sap (it is either white-ish or clear). Humans can tolerate this sap but some animals cannot.
Irritation will show itself as your pet scratching the same spot repeatedly, reddening of the skin, or even hair loss.
Make a way for your pet to avoid scratching the irritated part. If the irritated is in the mouth part, get a detachable cone for your pet.
This way, your pet cannot physically reach the irritated part. Constant touching and scratching can lead to its infection.
succulents that are poisonous to cats and dogs
Most of us feel overwhelmed when we enter a plant nursery. We want to buy one of every plant and bring it home.
Before you do that, are you sure that your plant will go well with your pet or can it harm your trusted companion.
Here are 8 succulents that can harm your pets. We also wrote down a brief explanation of what it can do to your pet and why.
1. Aloe Vera
We all know Aloe Vera. It is the wonder plant that does provides our skin and hair its needed vitamins for rejuvenation and moisture.
However, it does not do the same to pets. This plant can cause stomach problems like excessive vomiting and defecation.
Aside from stomach problems, more severe effects include abdominal pain and even tremors.
Be careful when using Aloe Vera products, natural or store-bought, since your pet can lick the droppings on the floor or table.
2. Jade Plant
This plant is like a miniature tree with its thick stems and chunky leaves. Just like Aloe Vera, it can cause gastrointestinal problems. It is also known to cause bodily incoordination or dizziness to pets when ingested.
Lethargy is also a common effect. Your pet will look constantly fatigue and inhibit appetite loss.
They may also be unresponsive to your calls. Do not keep shaking your pet in an attempt to liven him/her up.
3. Pencil Cactus
Euphorbia tirucalli is a branchy plant that has a lot of stems. Since its obstructive appearance, dogs and cats do stay away from it.
In the rare case your pet ingests a part of the plant, it will get the typical stomach problems.
This plant causes skin and eye irritation to cats and dogs, and may even lead to blindness. It is also said to be carcinogenic.
Its sap is so sticky and potent that even washing it off human skin with bath soap is hard. Imagine what it can do to a dog or cat’s skin.
4. Snake plant
The West African-native Sansevieria trifasciata is known to be an invasive species in the United States.
However, it is still popular as a lawn plant. It has saponin inside, a chemical compound that causes animals to vomit when it enters their body.
There is still lack of research about Saponin. Currently, online resources tell that some plants with saponin are also naturally toxic to cold-blooded organisms like snakes and frogs.
5. String of Pearls
This pea-like plant is also an invasive species but a native of South Africa. It is also a resilient plant that spreads fast. If its sap can cause skin irritation to humans, what more for pets.
Its round leaves can be mistaken as a pet food. That is why you should be careful when moving this plant since with just one snag, a couple of leaves could fall from it.
6. Sago Palm
The cycasin in the Sago Palm plant affects the animal’s liver. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), cycasin can cause vomiting, thirst, liver failure, or even death. Effects become noticeable in 15 minutes (or even a couple of hours).
The plant is not actually a palm but a cycad. Aside from being toxic to pets, the plant is high-maintenance. For one, it requires fertilizer if you want it to grow bigger.
However, too much or too less of the fertilizer, having not enough water in the soil, or having inadequate sunlight, the plant reacts sensitively by the yellowing of its leaves.
If you are keen on having this in your house, make sure to have it somewhere your pets cannot access. You cannot be too sure when it comes to your pet’s health.
Succulents that can kill your pets
You read that right. There are some succulents that are fatal to pets that owning them while living with a pet is either a risky decision or an ill-informed one.
1. Panda Plant
Belonging to the genus Kalanchoes along with 125 identified tropical plants, this sculpture-looking plant is deadly.
Aside from stomach problems, your pet might have oral and throat irritation because of the calcium oxalate crystals found in the plant. Animals that ingest this plant in large doses can die.
Any part of the plant is fatal. That is why it is not a good choice to have one because if you drop just a small piece of the plant, this could lead to fatal results for your pet.
2. Devil’s Backbone
Just by its name you know this plant means bad business. The Kalanchoe delagoensis is a plant that looks normal. With its thin leaves, short stems, and dark spots, it looks just like most plants in your garden.
However, when consumed, it can cause your pet abnormal heart beating and gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea.
It is better to keep this plant out of your collection if you have a pet. No need to have an underlying risk.
5 Succulents That Are Safe for Cats and Dogs
On the bright side, a lot of succulents that are pet-friendly look good. Here are some of them
1. Burro’s Tail
Also called as the Donkey Tail plant, the Burro’s Tail can grow up to 60cm long with oblong, juicy leaves. At the bottom of the “tail” is where the flower blooms. It blooms in light red.
The plant is usually left hanging from a vase attached to the roof or the upper part of the wall. It is not a cactus like most people think. All cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti.
If you decided to put your Aloe Vera somewhere hidden to hide from the pets, you might want the Haworthia to be your substitute to Aloe Vera. It is similar to Aloe Vera where its leaves are fleshy triangles arranged in a circular pattern.
However, the Haworthia has “more character” than the Aloe Vera thanks to the white ridges on its leaves.
This plant is so low-maintenance that you often can find it inside terrariums. It is called Hen and Chicken because of the formation of its leaves.
The bottom-most leaves are called the hen while the succeeding leaves that become smaller are called chickens.
When it flowers, the middle part grows tall and develops a blossom pink color. The flowers at the top opens up giving the plant a unique look.
4. Mexican Snowballs
What may look like a prop item to a fantasy sci-fi movie is Echeveria elegans or the Mexican Snowballs.
The underside of the leaves is like a blushing pink while the rest has a “snowy white” color to it.
Its rosettes or the rose-like flower that is thin can grow fast making the plant’s total height up to 8 inches.
The rosettes, when cut, make a good decoration for table design for a short time before it wilts.
5. Firecracker plant
No, it does not explode. It got its name because of the “popping” color of its flowers which comes in red or yellow.
It is coated in small fur which is ticklish when touched. Just like the Mexican Snowballs plant, it originates from Mexico.
When grown into a full bush along with other Firecracker plants, it results to a plant wall with a mix of green and pink.
How to avoid succulent poisoning?
This is easy. The best way to avoid your pets poisoning themselves with succulents is to make in inaccessible to them.
Animals are not as intuitive as humans where they know what can assess what plants or objects can harm them.
That is why it is your job to keep your pets out of harm’s way, especially if you have succulents or visited a place with succulents.
To keep it brief, here are some ways to avoid succulent poisoning.
1. Put your succulents in an elevated or secluded area
Putting your cactus on a shelf is easy since most houses have shelves and, usually, the top-most shelf is vacant.
However, it is hard to relocate your plant to a secluded area. After all, the goal of your plant is to improve the aesthetics and mood of your house. What is its use if it cannot be seen?
Another point to consider are cats are more agile than dogs where they can easily reach any elevated area. This is a matter of compromise to keep your pets and plants safe.
2. Keep your pets outside
Now, a lot of pet-owners treat their dog or cat like family. It is hard for them to keep their pets outside.
However, you should also consider that even domestic animals want to roam around their natural environment instead of being enclosed in a house.
Do this if you are truly serious with your succulents. Otherwise, you will just have a hard time relocating your dog in and out.
3. Have a fenced garden
If you are fine with putting your succulents outside your house along with other plants, why not surround the garden with chicken wire? Not that it will provide a barrier, it will train your pets not to reach for whatever is inside the fenced area.
Do know that not all breeds of dogs or cats are naturally rowdy. Some are tame enough to not mingle with your plant, whether it is a succulent or a bonsai.
It is also a good practice to know train your dog or cat (if they show tendencies to mingle with your succulents) by consulting a professional animal trainer.
What to do in case of poisoning?
While nobody wants their pet hurt, it is smart for pet-owners to have a concrete plan on what to do if their pet is poisoned.
This is the same principle in having a medicine cabinet and list of emergency contacts in your house in case someone in your family gets hurt.
Keep this step-by-step guide in mind. We do not recommend to strictly follow this since this only acts as a guide but not an instruction. Every incident of pet poisoning differs.
1. Call your veterinarian immediately
Even if it is a mild case of poisoning, immediately call your vet. This is not being paranoid but being sure.
Humans cannot fully diagnose themselves when something is wrong with their body, what more when it is your dog or cat’s body?
2. Take video or photos
It is important that your veterinarian knows what happened to your pet by showing him/her photos or videos of the incident.
3. Write down what your pet was doing before the incident
A calm mind is necessary in a situation like this. A rattled mind will keep your thoughts astray. Note what your dog ate, where he was hanging around, what time did you notice your pet being weak, and other details.
4. Inspect your dog
Check his mouth, paws, or skin to see anything is outside of normal. You can also spot if there is a contact with a poisonous succulent.
5. Inspect your plants
If your pet took a bite out of any of your plant, you now have a prime suspect.
Check also fallen pots, broken leaves, or anything unusual with your plants. It may be just a coincidence but it is important to take note of these things.
6. Follow every bit of your vet’s instructions
Even if it is a tedious one like applying a lotion or giving medicine thrice a day, do it.
Your vet spent a lot of years studying and practicing his field before he became your vet today, trust what he/she is saying.
Do not customize the medication just because you know your pet more than your vet.
Also, you should regularly update your vet about your pet’s health. Should you miss a medication, ask your vet immediately what alternatives do you have.
7. Apply the necessary adjustments in your house
Whether it is relocating the plants, putting your pet in a cage, or establishing other house rules, it is important that the factors leading to the incident should be minimized.
The Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA should be your go-to sources if you want to know which plants can harm your pets. It is better to get advice from professionals than from your neighbor.
Having a plant that can harm your pet is no easy task. That is you should know which plants you should not buy in the first place.
However, when you really want the plant and think you can settle an arrangement in which you can safeguard your pet from succulent poisoning, make sure you know what to do when your pet gets poisoned.
Otherwise, you might shell up lots of money for your pet’s medical expenses. Worse, your pet might die and, in turn, you might develop a fear from having plants inside your house.
You should also remember that in an average home, a succulent is not just the thing that could poison your pets.
There is your rat poison, pesticides, some human food, and cosmetics. Having an overall knowledge of what can harm your pet is a lifelong advantage.
However, harmful succulents are just the minority. Do not think every succulent in your house is bad.
After all, you can also fill up your house with non-succulent plants like an Ivy plant or Spider plant.
We hope this article clarified some things. Our team understood that some people often think that all succulents are harmful and some think of the opposite.
The conversation about succulent pet poisoning has a lot of nuances. We wish you, your pet, and your plant a safe life together.
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Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.