Garden Dangers For Dogs and Cats

As well as being a nation of animal lovers us Brits are rather partial to a spot of gardening, what with an Englishman’s’ home being his castle and all that.

Having laid a lot of the initial groundwork in Spring we are all keen to keep up the results of our hard labour in Summer. To that end we rush off to buy garden fertilisers and weed and moss killers, eager to have lush lawns, bountiful blooms, and fruit and vegetable crops that could feed an army.

Our furry companions just want to help, or see what we’re up to; dogs think they’re helping when they dig up everything in sight, and a cats’ natural curiosity always gets the better of them.


Unfortunately for our pets the majority of fertilisers are made of mixes of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, which aren’t meant for them to ingest. Luckily fertilisers are generally low toxicity products; this means that nearly 50% of animals remain well if they do happen to eat/absorb it.

Vomiting and Diarrhoea (occasionally bloody) are the most common signs of fertiliser poisoning. Urticaria (itchy lumps or blisters, redness, swelling) occurs if the product comes into contact with the animals’ skin, and your pet may become lethargic or depressed. Other signs include loss of appetite, hyper salivation (drooling), increased temperature and a hugely excessive thirst (polydipsia).

At Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we have excellent facilities and experienced, superb staff on hand to provide the supportive treatment your much-loved pet would require. Close monitoring, fluids, and products to clear the toxins from their stomachs will soon have your cat or dog back on their paws.

Commercial lawn “feed and weed” products can be more serious for your pet as they tend to contain Ferrous (Iron) Sulphate and Phenoxyacetic acid derivatives. The severity of symptoms depends on the concentration of elemental Iron in the product, and also how much your pet has ingested. The most important thing is to tell us the specific product you used so that we can use the Veterinary Poison Information Service (VPIS) database to establish the best treatment.

As with fertiliser exposure your cat or dog would probably show common sighs of Gastro-Intestinal (GI) irritation such as diarrhoea and vomiting, which then subside. The risk is that signs return 12 hours-4 days later, accompanied by dehydration, shock, kidney failure, liver failure, lack of blood clotting (increased risk of bleeding) and Cardiovascular collapse. In the most severe cases convulsions are seen; thankfully this is very rare in domestic animals s the long-term outcome is not at all good. Again, contact us immediately if you suspect poisoning, as the earlier we can treat your pet the better it is for them.

So your garden has been fertilised, job done, right? Well, no, in a nutshell. Having spent hours labouring, all your plants look RHS-ready, but Fido and Kitty have other ideas! Dogs and cats often have a sneaky nibble at things not on the list of edibles laid down by Mother Nature. “Surely all these magnificent specimens are just waiting for us to dig up, chew, and eat?” they think.

Common hazards for cats and dogs include a variety of flowers and shrubs beloved in many an English garden, so I am going to highlight just a few.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons’ undoubtedly look stunning, but beware; just a couple of leaves can cause Puss or Pooch nasty problems, or even be fatal. Acute digestive upset, excess drooling, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, weakness and loss of co-ordination, paralysis, and weak heart rate are symptoms we would see in your pet if they have ingested these.

Cyclamens are another plant that has unfortunately proved fatal in some cases. The highest concentration of toxins that affect cats and dogs is found in the roots and it causes GI irritation, including severe vomiting.

Begonias may be beautiful but their Tubers are also toxic to moggies and hounds. They cause profound oral irritation and intense burning to the mouth, tongue and lips, as well as vomiting, swallowing difficulties and excessive drooling. Not a pleasant experience for your beloved companion in any way, shape or form.

Shadier gardens are often home to the many varieties of Hosta; Prince Charles himself has a marvellous collection on one of his estates. Fit for a prince they may be but if your cat or dog ingests them a less-than-regal experience awaits them; vomiting, diarrhoea, and depression.

You wouldn’t normally associate trees with being poisonous to cats and dogs but all parts of the Yew Tree (except the flesh of the berries) are, making it very dangerous, and sometimes fatal, to them. Symptoms of Yew poisoning include significant GI irritation, tremors and in-coordination, breathing difficulties, and cardiac failure.

The last plant I’m going to mention is undeniably beautiful, but its beauty can come at a high price for Kitties that ingest it; the Lily family (including Lily of the valley). Lilies are very toxic even if only small amounts are ingested, causing kidney failure in cats. Dogs are unaffected by this plant.


At Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we always say the prevention is better than cure, so reduce the risk to your pets. Store chemicals where they can’t get to them, read instructions as to their use (your pet may need to stay indoors for a few hours), and seek our advice straightaway if you think poisoning has occurred. Do NOT induce vomiting as it may burn your pets’ throat on the way back up, causing further damage. Try to plant any harmful plants in a place not so accessible to curious cats and dig-happy dogs!

Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂