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Creating a garden safe for pets | News | Palo Alto Online |

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Uploaded: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 3:41 PM

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Safety is the key to any successful garden design, and one of the easiest ways to protect pets is to observe the plants carefully. Choosing prudent plants in your landscape means avoiding thorny, prickly, shiny plants and poisonous plants.

Small breeds and puppies in the chewing stage are particularly sensitive to toxins due to their limited size. Cats can also be attracted.

The local nursery sells many common garden plants that are poisonous to pets. In order to aggravate the damage, the plants are not accompanied by toxic warning labels. The degree of toxicity depends on the plant, the plant parts ingested, the amount consumed and the current health of the pet.

If you want to proceed with caution, consider some of the following plants. They may want to avoid planting altogether, or place them in the garden where curious pets are prohibited.

It is considered highly toxic to cats, and even small amounts can cause severe kidney damage.

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All parts of palm are poisonous, but the seeds contain the most toxins. Ingesting only one or two seeds can have serious effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and liver failure.

Contains a gray antitoxin, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and if severe, it will eventually lead to coma and cardiovascular failure and death.

All parts of the plant are considered toxic because the cardiac glycosides contained in them may have serious effects such as gastrointestinal irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia or even death.

Contains a toxic substance called taxine, which affects the central nervous system, causing shaking, lack of coordination and breathing difficulties. It may also cause gastrointestinal irritation and heart failure.

It is praised for its fragrant flowers, but all parts of the plant are toxic, and only a few berries can kill animals.

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If the berries are ingested in a green state, their toxin content is high, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and weakness.

Contains triterpene saponins, which may cause vomiting, abdominal pain, drooling and diarrhea.

Plants are not the only consideration in the garden. "Approximately 20% of calls to the poison center are about pesticides," said the Animal Poison Control Center, whose hotline provides assistance to pet owners 24 hours a day (888-426-4435).

If you adopt organic gardening methods, it is not difficult to keep pets away from insecticides (used to kill insects in the garden), herbicides (used to kill weeds) and rodenticides (rat bait). By working with Mother Nature instead of confronting her, you will discover a healthy ecosystem that is happy to coexist with you and your pet.

Finally, please pay attention to what type of covering to bring into your dog landscape. Cocoa covering is a by-product of chocolate production and contains the same toxic compounds as chocolate that is toxic to dogs. Coconut husk or coconut husk mulch is known for its ability to retain water around water-holding plants. However, if ingested by a dog, the same swelling will also occur in the dog's digestive tract and may cause intestinal obstruction.

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Even with the best prevention strategies, accidents can happen. If your pet shows any of the following signs of poisoning, please contact your veterinarian for immediate help: digestive disorders (vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite), neuromuscular damage (seizures, paralysis, breathing difficulties), confusion, Excessive tear production or rash.

For a detailed list of poisonous plants for dogs and cats, please visit

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Julie Orr is a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Architects (APLD), a landscape architect specializing in pet-friendly, water conservancy, and low-maintenance gardens. Call 650-468-8020 or visit

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Uploaded: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 3:41 PM

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