Spring is the perfect time to map out your vegetable garden, plant flower beds, and tidy up the yard. Unfortunately, many toxic hazards may be hiding in your backyard. We are always here to help your pet during a crisis, but you should know the potential toxicity hazards that may be lurking outside to prevent an emergency.

Garden plants

Although garden plants yield healthy fresh fruit and vegetables, many of the plants themselves, and the fruit, can be toxic for pets. Most will cause only gastrointestinal irritation, but some may cause more severe toxicity. Be aware of these offenders:

  • Tomatoes (the plant, not the fruit)
  • Potatoes (the plant, not the vegetable)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Chives
  • Rhubarb
  • Grapes

If you plant any of these potential poisons, build a fence that will keep your pet out of the garden.

Ornamental plants and flowers

Pet owners should be concerned about flowering plants and ornamental greenery used to brighten flower beds, because some are toxic to pets and can cause severe reactions. According to Pet Poison Helpline, the most common poisonous plants are:

  • Autumn crocus
  • Azalea
  • Cyclamen
  • Hyacinth
  • Kalanchoe
  • Lilies
  • Oleander
  • Dieffenbachia (dumb cane)
  • Daffodils
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Sago palm
  • Tulips (the bulbs only)


Chemicals used in lawn and garden fertilizers contain a number of poisonous ingredients. Bone and blood meal can cause gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis. A high iron content can lead to iron toxicity. Some fertilizers contain organophosphates, a dangerous group of chemicals that can cause specific symptoms, such as:

  • Drooling
  • Increased tear production
  • Urination
  • Defecation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting

A small amount of an organophosphate can be deadly, so skip these products for your pet’s sake.

Rodent baits

Rodenticides—chemicals made to kill rats, mice, and other rodent pests—can be dangerous to pets. Baits are made to lure rodents into eating them, and, unfortunately, they also tempt dogs and cats. Pets can be affected if they eat either the bait itself or a rodent—dead or alive—that recently ingested bait. Rodenticides can contain one of four types of toxins:

  • Long-acting anticoagulants — The most commonly used rodent baits prevent blood from clotting, leading to life-threatening blood loss.
  • Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) — Cholecalciferol-containing rodenticides raise blood calcium to dangerously high levels, causing kidney failure. These extremely toxic baits should be never be used around pets.
  • Bromethalin — Rodenticides containing bromethalin can lead to incoordination, muscle tremors, seizures, and death caused by swelling of the brain.
  • Phosphides — Phosphides release a toxic gas that causes bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting, and potential lung and heart complications. The gases are also toxic to humans, who can be exposed if an animal that has eaten a phosphide-containing rodenticide vomits nearby.


Insecticides, such as bug sprays, ant and roach traps, and fly paper can cause problems if eaten by your pet. Although most cause only mild gastrointestinal problems, some contain the dangerous organophosphates found in fertilizers. Read all labels closely, and keep insecticide products stored safely out of your pet’s reach.

Slug and snail baits

Slug and snail baits come in pellet, granule, powder, and liquid forms, and all contain metaldehyde, which is toxic to dogs and cats. If your pet ingests any of these baits, neurologic toxicity can result. Watch for these symptoms:

  • Salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia


Cocoa bean mulch is made from the hulls and shell casings of cocoa beans left over when chocolate is processed. When the sun warms freshly laid mulch, the chocolate aroma can lure dogs into ingesting it. Although processing removes much of the toxic chemicals—theobromine and caffeine—small amounts may still remain that can cause irritation or an obstruction in the stomach or intestines.


As your compost pile fills with rotting organic matter, bacteria and mold can proliferate. If your pet ingests tremorgenic mycotoxins produced by certain types of molds, you may see drooling, vomiting, muscle tremors, seizures, and hyperthermia. Composting is a great way to recycle food waste, but pets need to be kept away. Purchase a compost bin or put a fence around your compost pile.

Are you concerned that your pet may have eaten something toxic? Contact us immediately at 919-781-5145.