April 04, 2018

The Poison Potential of Succulents

With the popularity of succulents on the rise, it’s important to know which plants are safe and which may be poisonous to pets.
By Kerry Lengyel
Indoor decorating with succulents is a growing trend for numerous reasons. These tiny plants are easy to cultivate; need minimal maintenance; come in a wide array of colors, shapes and sizes; and produce long-lasting flowers — making them perfect for almost any space.

A succulent refers to any plant that stores water in its leaves, stems, or both, which gives the types of plants a bit of a swollen or fleshy appearance.

With the succulent phenomenon showing no sign of slowing, it’s important for veterinarians to be able to tell their clients whether these popular plants are harmful for their pets.

The bottom line: Most succulents won’t harm pets if ingested, but there are a few toxic varieties that pet owners and veterinarians need to be aware of. Make sure your clients are steering clear of these potentially dangerous succulents both inside and outside their homes.

Aloe Vera and True Aloe 
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses (not true aloe)

Probably one of the most popular succulent houseplants in the world, some aloe plants are, in fact, toxic to pets. Saponins and anthraquinones found in aloe vera can cause lethargy, diarrhea, and vomiting (not in horses) if ingested. Anthraquinones, anthracene, and glycosides found in true aloe can cause vomiting and a change in urine color (red).

Euphorbias 
Example:
Pencil Cactus
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses

Succulents classified under the Euphorbia family are among the more commonly known poisonous succulents. Euphorbias contain an white sap in their leaves that can irritate skin. For humans and animals, coming into contact with the sap can cause a rash. Ingesting this succulent can irritate the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing vomiting.

Kalanchoes
Also known as: Mother of Millions, Mother-In-Law Plant, Devil’s Backbone, Chandelier Plant
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs and cats

While not dangerous for humans, many Kalanchoes can cause dogs and cats to become ill. If ingested, the animal may show signs of vomiting or diarrhea, and sometimes (rarely) an abnormal heart rhythm.

Jade
Also known as: Baby Jade, Dwarf Rubber Plant, Jade Tree, Chinese Rubber Plant, Japanese Rubber Plant
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses

While the toxic principles of this specific succulent are unknown, ingesting this plant can cause clinical signs such as vomiting, depression, and incoordination in animals.

Silver Dollar
Also known as: Chinese Jade, Silver Jade Plant
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses

Animals that ingest this succulent may experience vomiting, an upset stomach, and (rarely) tremors, but cats may also show signs of drunkenness after ingestion.


If clients are wondering about succulents that are nontoxic to their furry friends, you can recommend this sampling:
  • Blue Echeveria
  • Burro’s Tail — also known as Horse's Tail, Donkey's Tail, Lamb's Tail
  • Ghost Plant — also known as Mother of Pearl
  • Hardy Baby Tears
  • Haworthia
  • Hens and Chickens — also known as Chickens and Hens, Mother Hens, Chicks
  • Maroon Chenille Plant
  • Mexican Firecracker
  • Mexican Rosettes
  • Mexican Snowballs
  • Painted Lady — also known as Copper Rose, Maroon
  • Plush Plant
  • Tree Cactus
  • Wax Rosette


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