Apartment gardening and houseplant toxicology

An overview

Aloe plantWhen it comes to apartment gardening we have a couple of things to consider regarding the plants that can actually thrive indoors. From lighting to proper air flow and humidity, not all plants can survive in our closed environment. Balancing this with being a responsible caregiver to our fluffy family members, things can get a little bit tricky. Because unknowingly to us, not all plants are safe for our pets. We owe it to them to educate ourselves on the dangers of some houseplants. Despite their beauty, they can prove to be lethal to our pets.

Popular household plants, such as Peace Lilly, Philodendron, Aloe, Dracaena, Golden Birds Nest, just to name a few, though popular for being hardy plants that can survive various light conditions and require little maintenance, can contain a number of toxic principles:

  • Insoluble calcium oxalates
  • Saponins
  • Cardiac glycosides
  • Various alkaloids

Each of these are detrimental to your pet’s health, with clinical signs that can vary from mild to downright life threatening.

That being said, it’s probably not a good idea to allow your cat/dog to eat any of your house plants, keep in mind that even non-toxic plants can give your pet an upset stomach. They can cause drooling, vomiting or diarrhea if they eat too much of it.

“The consumption of any plant material may cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats. Plants listed as either non-toxic, or potentially toxic with mild GI upset as their symptoms are not expected to be life-threatening to your pets.”ASPCA (n.d)“Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List” 

But fear not, there are still plenty of options out there (and in my humble opinion far more beautiful in foliage, flowers and fragrance – yes fragrance 😀 . Who needs incense when you have natural floral perfume!) so we can indulge in our passion for growing plants while knowing that we are not endangering our pet’s health.

Apartment gardening

Hey there, everyone! I am Chris, your friendly apartment gardener and in the articles to come we shall research:

  • The metabolic and digestive system that governs our pets entire being.

Keep in mind that at their core, cats and dogs remain true carnivores even though there is still the “dogma” (Dr. Patty Khuly,2013) of dogs as omnivores. So, even though they might like the texture of some plants, their saliva does not contain amylase. That is the enzyme that omnivorous and herbivorous animals possess, and as such, the pancreas works overtime in order for them to digest it. This is why Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is a common gastrointestinal disorder in dogs and cats. We shall also try to understand what is behind their behaviour when they do decide to chew on various plants.

  • The various toxic principles found in most popular houseplants, classifying them based on the level of toxicity, which part of the plant has the highest concentration of toxin and some unknown irritants. 

We shall compile a list starting from toxic household plants deemed by the ASPCA as having mild clinical signs and moving onto the life threatening ones. Unfortunately some plants poses a risk to our four legged friends ergo we might wanna rethink where we place them in our homes if at all.

  • Why pet proofing our apartments is important if one does own plants with mild toxic elements. And I do mean MILD. Lilies might be pretty but they will cause severe kidney problems in cats, even if they ingest very small amounts.
  • Pet friendly alternatives.

In the next chapter we will take an in depth look at our pet’s metabolic system to better understand the not only how their digestive apparatus works, but also the relationship between houseplants and cats/dogs.

Till next time and Happy growing!



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