Poison Info

National Animal Poison Control Center Information


$30 fee to your credit card with unlimited follow-up on the case. They will also consult with your veterinarian.


$20 for the first 5 minutes, $2.95 per minute thereafter. $20 minimum; no follow-ups.

National Animal Poison Control WWW page: http://www.napcc.aspca.org/


The center provides a non-profit service which is staffed by veterinarians and board-certified veterinary toxicologists. They have specific information on the effects of toxic substances (natural and man-made) on animals. When you call them you should have the following information at hand:

  1. Approximate amount of exposure to the toxic agent (i.e. quantity of plant eaten) and the time when it occurred.
  2. Species, breed, age, sex, weight, and general health of the animal as well as any medication the animal is currently taking.
  3. Symptoms the animal is displaying.
  4. Your name, address, phone number, etc.

Please take careful notes on your dog's reactions so that you can answer their follow-up questions accurately. This becomes part of their case-record database and helps them deal quickly with the *next* pet who gets into the same thing


Poisonous Plants


contributed by Helen Redlus
Email: hredlus@rahul.net


The Japanese or Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) averages less than 40 feet in height, with small, roundish, light green leaves that turn glorious colors of yellow, red and purple in autumn. It produces small, greenish-yellow flowers in the summer, followed by small berries. The milky sap in both the leaves and the berries is poisonous.

The yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) is a small tree averaging less than 25 feet in height, with multiple trunks that form interesting patterns. It has small leaves, about one inch long and a dark green color, that lines its smaller branches. Female trees produce berries in the summer that turn bright red in the fall, and it's these berries that are poisonous.

The chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) is a tree that averages 30 to 35 feet in height, with dark green fernlike leaves. In the spring it has lilac flowers in clusters, followed by berries. All parts of the chinabeny tree are poisonous, but fallen berries are often the cause of fatalities.


The azalea (Azalea sp.) is a variety of flowering shrub related to the rhododendron (Rhododendron sp.). Depending on variety, these shrubs average between three and eight feet in mature height. Many are evergreen, especially the hybridized varieties, with oval green or dark green leaves that range from one inch to three inches in length. These shrubs are best known for their stunning floral display in early spring and sometimes autumn, in lavender, pink, red, orange-red, and white. All parts of these lovely shrubs are highly poisonous, and they have caused many canine fatalities since there is no specific antidote for the resinoid toxins they contain, which act as heart depressants.

The holly bush (Ilex spp.) is a shrub often used to form hedges, and its famous shiny green, slightly prickly leaves are widely used for Christmas wreaths. The red berries it forms in the autumn, however, are poisonous.

The hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is best known for its flowers, which change color from pink to blue when planted in soils of different pH. It has large, round, flat leaves that seem to grow in layers, with balled mounds of flowers rising above them to a height of four feet. All parts of the hydrangea are poisonous, containing cyanide-producing substances.

Ligustrum and privet (Ligustrum sp.) are common hedge plants, with shiny, bright green oval leaves that darken with age. In spring and summer they produce white flowers in long spiky clusters, sometimes followed by berries in winter. All parts of these shrubs are poisonous.

Perhaps the most famous of all poisonous plants, the oleander (Nerium oleander) is a large, dense shrub that can grow to more than 10 feet in height, with long leaves that form a feathery wall. In late spring the oleander starts blooming, and for several months it is covered in flowers of white, red, and various shades of pink. All parts of the oleander are highly poisonous, and fatalities can result from breathing the smoke of a burning plant. Adult humans have died from using oleander stems to roast hot dogs. Death from cardiac glycosides can occur within a day.

The English yew (Taxus baccata sp.) is an evergreen shrub, growing six to 10 feet high, with dark green leaves X-inch wide and four inches long, and red berries. The poisonous parts are green or dry foliage, bark and seeds, which contain a toxic alkaloid.


English ivy (Hedera helix) is a vine that can be trained up a wall or used as groundcover. It's also a common houseplant. Its shiny, dark green trefoil leaves contain a poisonous glycoside.

Wisteria (Wisteria sp.) is a rapidly growing twining vine with fernlike leaves and clusters of lavender flowers in the spring, followed by seeds in long, velvety, pea-shaped pods. These pods and seeds are poisonous.


Most of these plants are not poisonous themselves, but if eaten or mouthed, the alkaloid- containing bulbs and root systems are. If your dog has sensitive skin, these bulbs can cause dermatitis or an allergic skin reaction. For safety's sake, bulbs should never be planted in areas where puppies are allowed to play, and areas with naturalized bulbs should be restricted. Many of these bulbs are also grown in pots for indoor enjoyment. Dangerous bulbs include the following:

The amaryllis (Amaryllis sp.) has strap-shaped leaves that radiate up, out, then down from the central bulb. These glorious eight-inch flowers of orange, scarlet, pink, salmon, white, and two-toned mixtures bloom May through July.

Daffodil, jonquil, and narcissus (Narcissus sp.) shoot stems j straight up for 18 inches to two feet in early spring, then produce j three-inch trumpet-shaped flowers of white or yellow or both colors.

Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis grows to a height of about / 10 inches, with small white, pink, yellow or blue flowers in clusters.

Iris (Iris sp.) can grow to a height of six feet, with orchidlike flowers of blue, purple, white, yellow, bronze and multicolors throughout spring.


Caladium and elephant's ear (Caladium sp.)L wit are grown for their interesting heart-shaped leaves, which provide a decorative touch in shady areas. Elephant's ear is the large one, with green leaves up to two feet across or larger Caladiums are rarely larger than 10 inches and often are much smaller, with leaves variegated in various shades of green, pink, red, white. The leaves and stems of these plants contain damaging slivers of calcium oxalate.

Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum sp.) small, bushy plants usually less than 18 inches in height, with pom-pom blooms in every color except blue. They have poisonous leaves.

If your dog has dug up the chrysanthemum bed and is developing dermatitis, The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook (Carlson, D.V.M., and Griffin, M.D., Howell Book House, 1980, 1992) advises giving a bath in warm water with a mild soap such as Ivory. Be sure to scrub the affected area well, so that if the dog licks itself it doesn't spread the problem to its mouth and tongue. Follow this with a trip to the vet.

Foxglove (Digitalis sp.) is a biennial that forms low mounds of broad leaves the first year, then sends up three-foot spikes of flowers above the mound the second year, in shades of pink, purple, yellow or white. The entire plant contains steroid glycosides and can be fatal.

Lantana (Lantana sp.) is a small bush, rarely over three feet in height, that is often grown as a ground cover or as a carefree color plant. It has sprays of small flowers in yellow, orange, red and pink throughout summer, followed by black berries. The leaves and berries are poisonous and may be fatal.

Larkspur (Delphinium virescens) grows two to four feet tall, with a spike of blooms ranging from white to purple, with pink and salmon common. All parts of larkspur contain alkaloids, including the roots, and may be fatal due to clogging or paralysis of the respiratory system.


Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a coarse, woody shrub, about six to nine feet high, that spreads by underground runners. It has light brown stems that are white inside, with leaflets two to three inches long arranged in opposite groups of five to nine. White flowers are in rounded clusters up to a foot across in early summer, followed by deep purple or black berries. The foliage, stems, roots and berries of this common weed contain a cyanide-producing glycoside.

Greenleaf mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum) is a parasite plant that grows on oak, elm, cottonwood, ash, sycamore, walnut and other trees. It has brittle, woody twigs that hang in masses from the host tree, and thick, leathery green leaves in opposite pairs. The berries are either white or pink, sticky when crushed, and grow in globs along the stem. All parts of the mistletoe are poisonous and may be fatal.

Never allow your dog to eat a mushroom or toadstool (Amanita, Gyromitra, Coprinus, Inocybe sp., or Clitocybe sp.), as there is no specific antidote for the toxins they can contain. Even a very small amount can be fatal. HOUSE PLANTS ~ Dieffenbachia or dumbcane (Dieffenbachia sp.) is a large tropical plant grown for its wide and interesting foliage, often marked with colors such as cream or yellow- green. Each oblong leaf grows on its own vertical stem, forming a cluster that can reach the ceiling. All parts of this plant contain calcium oxalate crystals.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), a Christmas tradition, is poisonous but not fatally so, and some dogs aren't even disturbed by it.


"There's no cookbook approach to treating a possibly poisoned dog," warns Louise Cote, a toxicologist with the National Animal Poison Control Center. "Don't treat the poison-- treat the patient." Different body weights of various breeds of dogs, the amount and type of plant ingested, age of the patient, and status--a pregnant bitch, an older dog with liver problems--all mean that every situation, and every dog, is different. Because of this difference, Dr. Cote advises calling the NAPCC at (800) 548-2423 before attempting treatment. (There is a charge for this telephone consultation.) If the owner is certain what plant the dog ingested, and if the event occurred within the last hour, Dr. Cote may advise the owner to induce vomiting.

Dr. Cote's general recommendation is to first fill the dog's stomach with soft food to prevent damage from attempting to vomit on an empty stomach. Then she suggests giving the dog two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide by mouth; the dog should vomit within 20 minutes. This measure can be repeated once if the first attempt does not induce vomiting. The NAPCC does not recommend Ipecac syrup or Epsom salts, due to possible side effects in dogs, although some veterinarians believe these medicines are appropriate treatments.

If the incident occurred more than an hour ago, or if the dog is starting to show signs of poisoning, Dr. Cote advises taking it immediately to your veterinarian. Your vet may then call the NAPCC to consult on a treatment plan.

The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook advises the owner of a possibly poisoned dog to first attempt to identify the poison. This can be difficult, since dogs by nature are curious and tend to get their noses in trouble behind their owners backs. If the dog has vomited (which is usually the first clue an owner has that her dog has eaten something it shouldn't), part of the plant may be in the vomitus, which can be helpful in identification. When you take a poisoned dog to the vet, take with you a sample of the vomitus, any stools passed, and a large sample of the plant you believe the dog to have eaten.

Note: The above information is from Dog Fancy Magazine, May 1995.


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Last Updated Sunday, April 01, 2001