Choosing safe Valentine's flowers, plants for pet parents

If you're sending your sweetheart cut flowers or a potted plant for Valentine's Day, choose ones that are safe for their pets.

One lick of a pollen-covered lily stamen can be life-threatening to cats, as my daughter Julia learned when her cat, Nyah, found her way to a beautiful and well-intentioned gift bouquet displayed in a vase on the table. It was a momentary encounter, but the damage was done. Three days of dialysis and $2,500 later, Nyah returned home.

“Each year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) sees a rise in calls around Feb. 14th,” according to Dr. Tina Wismer, veterinarian and senior director of the APCC. She said many of those involve chocolate, xylitol and indoor plants, adding that plant poisonings are a concern for pets year-round.

In 2021 alone, she said, “the APCC received more than 31,500 calls about pets ingesting potentially toxic indoor and outdoor plants and flowers.”

ONES TO WATCH FOR

Lilies, Wismer agreed, are among the worst offenders. “Even a small exposure to Lilium (lily) and Hemerocallis (daylily) causes kidney issues in cats, as they are extremely toxic.” But they aren’t considered toxic to dogs, she said.

Tulips, on the other hand, are problematic to both cats and dogs. “While ingestion of the leaves typically just causes stomach upset, the bulb contains toxins that can cause intense stomach upset, low blood pressure, convulsions, and cardiac abnormalities,” Wismer said.

Carnations, calla lilies, chrysanthemums, daisies and gladiolas, all popular bouquet additions, also are toxic and should be kept away from dogs and cats.

Non-flowering plants aren't necessarily safer, Wismer says. Sago palm “is toxic to all pets and can cause symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, liver failure, and potentially death.”

Other trendy houseplants, like dumb cane (Dieffenbachia,) Swiss cheese plant (Monstera), peace lily (Spathiphyllum), golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and snake plant (Sansevieria) are toxic to both species.

“The most common outward signs of any toxicity in pets will be nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and drooling,” Wismer said. “In more severe cases, lethargy, depression and seizures can suggest your pet may have ingested something poisonous.”

If your pet has eaten any part of a toxic plant or flower, or shows any of these signs or symptoms, Wismer recommends contacting your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 as soon as possible.

SAFER FLOWERS

Pets and plants can safely coexist, of course, but some diligence is required.

Roses, gerbera daisies and orchids are among the popular gift flowers considered safe for cats and dogs, Wismer said. But she cautioned that thorns can pose a risk; you can buy thorn-stripped roses, or clip thorns off yourself once you get the flowers home.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), rattlesnake plant (Calathea lancifola) and parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) are three of the safest houseplants to grow around cats and dogs. However, Wismer warned, ingesting even non-toxic flowers or plants can lead to gastrointestinal upset and other non-life-threatening symptoms.

Some pet owners forego flowers and plants altogether, while others place plants out of reach. Finding an out-of-reach spot can be difficult, however, for a cat with superhero agility, who can balance on the top of a door and leap tall refrigerators in a single bound.

To play it safe, do some research before buying plants or flowers for a pet parent. The ASPCA website’s ( https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants ) comprehensive, searchable and species-sortable guide to toxic and nontoxic plants and flowers will make easy work of it, so that your Valentine – and their furry friends – can fully enjoy the holiday.

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Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated Press. She publishes the award-winning Weekly Dirt Newsletter. Sign up here for weekly gardening tips and advice.

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For more AP gardening stories, go to https://apnews.com/hub/gardening.

Jessica Damiano, The Associated Press