Why Are Some Plants Unsafe for Pets?
We all know that some plants are unsafe for our furry friends, but why are certain plants dangerous? Plant toxicity is a naturally occurring defense mechanism in which the plant tries to prevent itself from being eaten. Since plants cannot move around, they have evolved “weapons” to ward off herbivores.
Some plants have hairs or thorns and others create or secrete what are called secondary plant metabolites. These secondary metabolites are what cause the plant to be poisonous. There are different levels of toxicity ranging from mild to fatal. The toxicity level can depend on locality, age of the plant, and various environmental factors.
Mild toxicity can cause irritation or vomiting. For example, Pothos create crystal raphides which are a physical irritant, but the effects are usually mild. Similarly, the juices from certain succulents can induce vomiting. On the other hand, some plants can be fatal if ingested. The Sago Palm contains several toxic compounds. These compounds can cause very severe gastrointestinal upset, affect the nervous system, or damage the liver. A great guide to poisonous plants, their chemical compounds, and side effects can be found here: https://www.britannica.com/science/poison-biochemistry/Plant-poisons-phytotoxins
Toxic plants can only harm you or your pets if ingested. Our pets are curious creatures that can view a new plant as a chew toy. If you plan on having a toxic plant, we recommend you place it somewhere your pets cannot get to it. You can also view our pet safe category of plants here: https://americanplantexchange.com/shop-plants/pet-safe