Fall is a favorite time of year for many, full of beautiful flowers, colorful trees and festive decorations. Some seasonal plants and decorations, such as pumpkins and corn, are considered non-toxic to dogs and cats, but some autumn plants can be very harmful to pets. It’s important to know which fall beauties are friends and which are foes. Before you and your furry friend venture out into the yard or the neighborhood this fall, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to make sure you familiarize yourself with these plants so you can best keep your pets safe.
• Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), also known as the Meadow Saffron, is a perennial that blooms in the fall. This is not to be confused with the spring crocus (Crocus sp.) that blooms in the spring and is non-toxic. Autumn crocus can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats and pet parents should be on high alert for this plant. Problems from ingestion may consist of vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, a decrease in production of the cells responsible for immunity, carrying oxygen and blood clotting, multi-organ failure and even death.
• Chrysanthemums, also known as mums or daisies, are a popular fall flower and come in various colors. Chrysanthemums are considered a mild to moderately toxic plant for pets. Depending on how much your cat or dog eats, symptoms associated with ingestion can consist of vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and wobbliness.
Aside from the flowers we may pass while out for a walk, there are hidden fall toxins that come from the colorful trees above us. During fall, certain trees drop leaves, fruits and seeds onto the ground, creating a smorgasbord opportunity for our four-legged friends.
• Apples, including crabapples, contain cyanide in all parts of the plant except the fruit flesh. Cyanide affects the enzymes responsible for oxygen transport and prevents cells from using the oxygen in the blood stream—making fallen apples a dangerous snack for pets. Signs of a cyanide toxicity include dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, bright red gum color, shock and death. However, cyanide toxicity is rare in dogs and cats because the whole seeds or pit must be masticated and the leaves must be wilting or stressed for the cyanide to be released. Dogs and cats will often develop signs of stomach upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea if they ingest parts of an apple. Fruit left on the ground to spoil and ferment can also pose a risk for alcohol toxicity if consumed.
• Oak trees shed leaves and acorn seeds during the fall season. Acorns are also commonly used in fall decorations and contain high concentration of tannins. Tannins can be irritating to a pet’s digestive system, so vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort can develop with one-time exposures. Kidney damage has also been reported in grazing animals such as cows and horses, but it’s rare for dogs and cats, because they generally don’t eat enough acorns to cause long-term damage.
• Red maple trees make for a stunning fall display, but horse lovers should beware! Red maples contain a toxin that causes a breakdown of the red blood cells that leads to anemia. Horses can exhibit signs of weakness, pale gum color and elevated heart rates if they’ve ingested red maple leaves. Thankfully, red maples are considered nontoxic to dogs and cats, and just slight stomach upset is possible if the leaves are ingested. Festive Decorations
Fall festivities are not complete without beautiful decorations. Pumpkins, gourds, wheat, hay, corn and sunflowers are commonly used and are all considered non-toxic to dogs and cats. (Though wheat, hay and corn can trigger allergies in pets that have a sensitivity to grains.) However, there are other concerns to consider. Toxic molds can grow on fruits, seeds and grains, and even small ingestions can cause significant side effects to the nervous system in pets. In addition, large ingestions of leaves, seeds or corn cobs can become lodged in the intestinal tract and cause a blockage.