It’s spring, and people are polishing off their green thumbs as they design flower gardens, map out vegetable patches, and fight off weeds and yard pests. But, a fun yard project can quickly take a turn for the worse if your pet gets into something poisonous.

Garden plants

Many vegetable plants are toxic to pets if they eat the plant itself or the unripe vegetables. Most vegetables cause mild gastrointestinal irritation with temporary vomiting and diarrhea, but some can cause more serious problems. Keep pets away from these plants and herbs:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Hot peppers
  • Rhubarb
  • Rosemary
  • Avocado
  • Grapes

Build a fence around your garden high enough to keep your plants out of your pet’s reach.

Flowers and ornamental plants

Flower gardens can also be risky—especially to cats, who are more likely to eat plants. Watch your pets closely if your gardens contain any of these varieties:

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


Rodent baits contain chemicals designed to lure mice, rats, moles, and gophers to eat them, but, unfortunately, they can also entice other animals. The most commonly used rodenticides contain anticoagulants, which cause uncontrollable internal bleeding that leads to death. Pets can be poisoned by eating either the bait or a rodent—dead or alive—that has eaten a rodenticide. Other deadly baits cause deadly elevation of calcium levels, swelling of the brain, or production of toxic phosphine gas.

Slug and snail baits

Baits sprinkled around flowers to deter slugs and snails contain metaldehyde, an ingredient that is toxic to dogs and cats. These clinical signs develop rapidly:

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

Ingesting large amounts can be fatal. Liver failure may develop if the animal is not treated quickly.


Other products that target pests, such as bug sprays, fly paper, spider traps, and ant baits, can cause problems. Although most only cause minor irritation, some pesticides cause more severe toxicity. Carefully store all products designed to deter or kill pests out of your pet’s reach.


Composting is a great way to recycle food waste and make homemade garden fertilizer, but dangerous molds and toxins can build up as the food decomposes. If your dog or cat ingests tremorgenic mycotoxins in decaying compost, she may display the following symptoms:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures

Never add meat or dairy products to your compost mix, as these foods, which are more likely to draw animals, can harbor dangerous bacteria. Put a fence around your compost pile or use a compost bin.


Products used to kill weeds, nourish plants, and cultivate lawns often contain dangerous chemicals. Bone meal and blood meal, made from animal products, can cause pancreatitis or a compacted mass that leads to an intestinal obstruction. Products that contain iron or organophosphate are particularly toxic. Watch for these signs:

  • Salivation
  • Excessive tearing
  • Excessive urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting

Cocoa bean mulch

Cocoa bean mulch is made from the leftover shell casings and cocoa bean hulls used to make chocolate. Processing removes most toxic compounds, but small amounts remain, and when the sun heats the freshly laid mulch, your pet may not be able to resist the chocolate aroma. If she ingests a significant amount, her body may absorb the theobromine and caffeine—the toxic ingredients in chocolate—that may leach from the mulch. A good rain will wash away the chocolate smell, but it’s best to skip this type of mulch.

Pet-proofing your home and yard is key to poison prevention. Choose pet-friendly products and plants whenever possible. Keep plants you know may be toxic behind a fence that keeps your pet out, and store chemicals out of reach inside a garage or shed.

Questions about yard and garden toxins? Contact our veterinary team today!