If you're anything like me, you probably love a good book - and when it's a book about dogs, even better!
I've got an entire shelf (okay, more than one) dedicated to books about dogs at Heads & Tails HQ, and earlier this week I pulled out one of my all-time favourites. As soon as I opened it I realised I just had to share it with you.
No, it's not Marley & Me. Although I recommend you read that too!
I can't remember how I came across Poisonous 2 Pets by Nicole O'Kane - it was so many years ago, but I'm so glad I did as I've never found anything else remotely similar since... and in case you're wondering, I'm no stranger to Dymocks!
Poisonous 2 Pets is a one-of-a-kind Australian reference book detailing the toxicity of certain plants to our beloved pets. Sadly, as many great ideas, this book was born out of a situation in which it was truly needed. After Nicole's own puppy Brandy became seriously ill after eating a plant in her backyard, she wanted to research more about common flora dangers, but found the information remarkably difficult to come by. Fortunately for us, Nicole was inspired to compile an extensive full-colour handbook of common garden plants and their risks. With this invaluable tool, any pet parent (particularly those with puppies or notorious chewers) can make their yard genuinely dog-friendly.
There are hundreds of plants detailed in this fantastic resource, each separated into categories of toxicity. Every plant (or plant family) has a dedicated page displaying photos and a description, plus areas the plants are commonly found. Most importantly, the toxic parts of each plant are specified together with the effects each component has if touched or ingested. We recommend anyone with a dog and a garden pick up their own copy here, but in the interim we thought we'd give you 7 of the most toxic plants named in this book, so you can ascertain whether these sneaky offenders are growing in your yard!
Being in the "high toxicity" classification, most of the below listed plants can quite literally be deadly and in very small quantities. It goes without saying to contact your Vet or visit your closest Emergency Centre immediately if you know or even suspect your pet has come into contact with any of these plants.
1. Abrus Precatorius
This slender climbing vine goes by a few different names (such as jequirity bean, rosary pea, or crab-eye seed) and the part to be especially wary of is the seed, which is red with a black spot. If chewed and swallowed this can cause a range of symptoms including convulsions, blindness, and circulatory collapse.
2. Red Maple
Maple trees are easily distinguished by the shape of their leaves - which are the most hazardous part of the tree (at any stage of growth). If eaten, the leaves can cause reactions such as an abnormally rapid heart rate, jaundice, and cyanosis.
Often referred to as "pigweed", this is quite a common plant used in parks and gardens. Though Amaranth has long been harvested for use in cooking for humans, it is not at all safe for dogs. The leaves, stems, and roots of Amaranth are all poisonous and can lead to lethal kidney failure.
Unless you have a fish pond, algae may not be such a problem in your backyard. However, it's certainly prevalent in water bodies in areas where you may walk your dog. It's important not to let your dog swim in water containing algae (including blue-green algae) as it triggers a number of health problems, one of the least pleasant is severe damage to the blood vessels and liver cells.
Despite it's sweet appearance, Daphne is anything but sweet when it comes into contact with a dog. The whole plant is toxic and can cause cardiac and neurological problems as well as internal bleeding. Definitely one to avoid!
Like many of the plants mentioned, this one is an umbrella term which relates to a number of subspecies. There are actually about 250 plants under the Delphinium umbrella but they can normally be identified by their remarkable flowers. Unfortunately for dogs, Delphinium causes things like an irregular heartbeat and respiratory paralysis, so it's best to steer clear.
7. Christmas Berry
Not a merry time does the Christmas Berry bring! The red berries of this tree are highly poisonous as they contain cyanogenic glycosides - if ingested, death can occur within 15 minutes!
Bear in mind as you walk around the garden hunting for these plants that this is far from an exhaustive list; there are a number of other extremely poisonous plants listed in this book which we haven't outlined today. A very quick mention about the entire Nightshade family (e.g. tomato, potato, eggplant) and the entire Prunus clan, which refers to a group of over 400 trees or shrubs including Cherry, Peach, Plums, Almond and Apricot. Perhaps we'll go into these another time!
In the meantime - just be mindful. As Nicole states at the beginning of the book, "it's not my intent to discourage you from planting any of these plants or to discard the ones that you may already have, it is just to make you aware of the potential hazard these plants may have in relation to your pets." Your dog may take absolutely no interest in the flora that colours your backyard, but if you know this isn't the case, it could be worth making some little adjustments to your garden!
Until next week, take care and happy walking! :)