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Are Philodendrons Toxic to Cats & Dogs?

Are philodendrons toxic to cats and dogs? Read our guide today to discover all you need to know about the toxicity levels of philodendrons to keep your pets saf

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Kiersten Rankel
Dec 12, 2021

Are Philodendrons Toxic to Cats & Dogs?

Possessing a love of plants and a love of pets are both noble pursuits. However, there are so many plants that can be toxic to our furry friends that sometimes knowing which ones can be challenging. One question we get asked frequently is whether or not philodendrons are toxic to pets. Keep reading as we explore this topic more deeply! 🍃

What are Philodendrons?

Philodendrons are a genus of tropical plants and come in many different varieties. The different philodendron types are characterized by their lush green leaves and foliage, and their climbing vines. Some of the most popular types include heartleaf philodendron, velvetleaf philodendron and horsehead philodendron.

Where some species of philodendrons have heart-shaped leaves, others have split, elongated leaves. Some have shades of pink, where others can be orange and copper-colored. However, whichever type of philodendron you choose, they’re ideal for indoor spaces and are great for brightening up any room. 

Philodendrons are often placed on coffee tables and shelves, as the vines can hang downwards and create a lush appearance. They’re also hung on walls and windows for a classically draped vine effect.

This tropical plant requires ample amounts of bright, indirect light, as well as a sufficiently humid environment to thrive and flourish. It’s hard to overwater this particular plant and quite easy to grow and propagate it. 

All of these characteristics make it an ideal indoor plant for most. However, it does have one big downside that can sometimes overshadow all of these qualities for dog or cat owners. 

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Image by Quinracerr200

Philodendron Toxicity

Are philodendrons toxic to cats? The short answer is yes. Are philodendrons toxic to dogs? Also yes. In fact, philodendrons are mildly toxic for cats, dogs, birds, and even humans. 

This toxicity is due to a crystalline chemical found in all parts of the plant, from the leaves to the stem, called calcium oxalate. Calcium oxalate is the same chemical that forms human kidney stones.

It appears in needles and can be present all over the plant, including the leaves and stems. When your pet bites or licks a philodendron, these crystals get embedded on the tongue and mouth. These embedded chemical crystals cause an intense burning and itching sensation in the mouth.

Calcium oxalate crystals can cause a severe reaction in cats and dogs, depending on the amount consumed. However, in most cases, both cats and dogs don’t do anything more than nibble to get a taste. The immediate reaction curbs any further curiosity in eating the plant. This immediate reaction can include swelling in the lips, as well as irritation in the mouth. 

Signs of Philodendron Poisoning in Dogs 

If you think your pet has consumed even a small portion of a philodendron plant, you need to assess the situation as soon as possible and be sure. Inspect the plant and see if a bite has been taken out to understand the severity of the condition and how much the dog may have ingested. Once you’ve established that your dog has eaten some of the plant, it’s time to take action. 

Symptoms of philodendron poisoning in dogs include: 

  • Burning sensation 
  • Increased salivation 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Swelling of tongue and mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth 
  • Mouth foaming 
  • Vomiting
  • Oral irritation
  • Eye irritation
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Hoarse barking

The first symptom right after ingestion of a philodendron is a burning sensation. This may cause the dog to become agitated and start pawing at its face and mouth to relieve the burning. 

Then comes the drooling, coughing, and foaming. This is a natural attempt to throw up the toxic material and stop the reaction. However, things get serious when a dog starts to have trouble swallowing or breathing. If things escalate to this point, you need to get to the vet as soon as possible. 

In extreme cases, philodendron poisoning in dogs can result in: 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Renal failure, 
  • Convulsions
  • Coma 
  • Cardiac arrhythmia 

This is especially true if they’ve eaten a big chunk of philodendron, ingesting too much of the toxic calcium oxalate at once.

Usually, the first symptoms appear right away. However, in unusual cases, it can take an hour or two after ingestion. To provide some first aid to your dog as soon as they start reacting, wash out their mouth to remove as much of the toxin as possible. Next, give them a food source that is rich in calcium. Always remember, though, it’s best to let a certified vet examine your dog to be on the safe side. 

Signs of Philodendron Poisoning in Cats 

Cats will have much the same response as dogs when it comes to philodendron poisoning. This is because calcium oxalate is also poisonous for felines. Symptoms of philodendron poisoning in cats include:

  • Excessive salivation 
  • Puking 
  • Pawing at the mouth 
  • Respiratory trouble 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Difficulty swallowing 

Other than this, if your cat has consumed too much of the philodendron, you may also notice internal issues and pain exhibited by your pet. If your kitten has nibbled on a philodendron leaf, you should look for symptoms immediately. Also, check how much of the plant she has chewed, so that you can give the correct information to your vet. 

If needed, your vet may inject your cat or dog with an antihistamine, as this can help bring down any swelling and take the edge off any pain. If too much time has passed, the symptoms can progress and cause a complete blockage of your pet’s food and oxygen canal. In this case, your doctor may opt for intravenous delivery of medicines directly into the body.  

Photo by Anxietylaw

How to Treat Your Pets

If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, the safest bet is to take a trip to the vet. Your pet health care professional will assess the severity of the situation and treat it accordingly. 

Even if it isn’t apparent, your cat or dog may be suffering from severe pain, inflammation, and irritation due to poisoning. In such a case, it’s best not to delay getting help. Unfortunately, if philodendron poisoning is not treated in a timely manner, calcium oxalate crystals will start to form in the urinary tract and make the whole situation significantly more painful for your pet. 

If you can’t get to your vet right away, some home remedies to treat philodendron poisoning in pets include:

  • Using tuna water to flush out the crystals from the mouth of your pet 
  • Using milk and yogurt to bring together and bind all the poisonous crystals

How to Keep Your Pets Away from Toxic Plants

If you know the risk your philodendrons pose to your beloved cat or dog, you need to figure out a way to keep the two away from each other. 

If you have vining philodendrons, you can hang them at a height that makes it difficult for your pet to reach them. If you have bushy philodendrons, you can try investing in a pet-repellent device. Such devices have an automated motion sensor and emit a hissing sound when they detect movement in their surroundings. 

You can also opt for floating shelves placed at a high level, to serve as home to your bush-like and vining philodendrons. Just make sure none of the vines are hanging low enough for the cat to reach. 

To prevent your cat’s attention from wandering toward the philodendron, keep it in a clustered area surrounded by other things. Cats don’t like clusters. 

With dogs, you need to make sure the floating shelves aren’t low enough for the dog to reach while standing on their hind legs. You can also create a barrier around the philodendron to keep your cats and dogs away from it and possible poisoning. 

Finally, make sure to clean up if your philodendron is shedding leaves. All it takes is one bite of a fallen philodendron leaf to place the life of your pet in peril. 

By following these tips and tricks, you will hopefully be able to keep both cats and dogs away and safe from philodendrons and their toxicity. 

Other Plants Containing Calcium Oxalate 

Of course, philodendrons aren’t the only plants you need to be wary of when keeping your pets safe from accidental plant poisoning. Other plants that contain calcium oxalates include: 

  • Arum lilly
  • Chinese evergreen 
  • Flamingo plant 
  • Horsehead philodendron 
  • Rhubarb

Moral of the story? Be careful when you have pets. Learn the types of plants that may not be safe for them and take steps to reduce their risks and exposure to them. There are many plants that are perfectly safe if you have furry friends, so consider placing those around your home instead!

While it is a beautiful houseplant, growing philodendrons does have its challenges. But before planting them in your garden, it’s always a good idea to know all you can about them. That research also comes in handy while caring for them as well, like why philodendron leaves turn yellow, why philodendron leaves are curling, or how to propagate philodendron. The more you know, the better you can properly care for your plant.