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Is Hellebore Toxic – Learn About Hellebore Poisoning Of Dogs

Is Hellebore Toxic – Learn About Hellebore Poisoning Of Dogs


By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Is hellebore toxic? Helleborus is a genus of plants that includes a number of species commonly known by names such as Lenten rose, black hellebore, bear’s foot, Easter rose, setterwort, oriental hellebore, and others. Dog lovers frequently ask about hellebore toxicity and with good reason. All parts of the hellebore plant are toxic, and the same is true for all types of hellebores. In fact, through the years, hellebore poisoning has been the subject of legends involving murder, madness, and witchcraft.

Hellebore in the Garden

Although hellebore in the garden is beautiful, it can present a danger to pets. The plant is also harmful to cattle, horses, and other livestock but generally only when they are desperate and starving because sufficient feed is unavailable.

If you aren’t sure about the existence of hellebore in the garden, or if you have any plants you are unsure of, show a picture to knowledgeable folks at a greenhouse or nursery. You can also ask experts at your local cooperative extension to identify unknown plants.

Dogs and Hellebore Toxicity

Generally, dogs won’t ingest a lot of hellebore because of the bitter, unpleasant taste (and some types also have a nasty odor). As a result, reactions tend to be fairly mild and severe toxicity is unusual. In most cases, a nasty taste and itching or burning of the mouth is the worst that will happen.

It’s a very good idea, however, to call your veterinarian. He or she may direct you to induce vomiting or may tell you how to rinse your dog’s mouth in the case of pain and swelling.

However, if you’re unsure how much of the plant your dog ingested, don’t wait. Take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Hellebore Poisoning in Dogs

Typical signs of hellebore toxicity include:

  • Abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Colic
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Excessive thirst

Dogs that ingest a large amount of hellebore may experience:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paralysis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Sudden death

It’s always a good idea to research beforehand about the plants in your home and garden to weed out those that can potentially harm your pets and especially small children.

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Poisonous Plants for Pets

Poisonous Plants for Pets

Some plants are bad for dogs. We’re building up a list of them, but it’s incomplete. Compiling this list is important work. Don Burke points out the ones we know about, but we need your help in identifying all the plants dangerous to dogs.

Brunfelsia. Perhaps the most dangerous plant for dogs (especially puppies) is yesterday, today and tomorrow (Brunfelsia). This is a poisonous plant for dogs, and if they eat the plant, especially the fruit which comes after flowering, they may die. You should consider removing or at least fencing off this plant. This is the common small flowering shrub with the violet, lilac and white flowers, all on the same plant.

Liliums. All types of liliums are toxic to cats especially, and all parts of the plants are poisonous – bulbs, leaves, flowers. This includes the cut flowers you buy from the florist as well as the garden plants.

Wandering jew. Wandering jew (Tradescantia albiflora) is very common in gardens especially in moist, shady areas. It is a horrible weed that will grow in near total shade and almost can’t be killed. Pull it out and it miraculously regrows. Dogs love lying on it in cool areas, as it is comfy and cooling. Sadly, it causes an allergic skin reaction in almost all dogs. A rash and, later, ugly callused areas of skin form on the ‘elbows’, groin, stomach, under the chin and any area that the dog rests on. The solution is to rake up the plants, put them in a plastic bag, seal it and put it in the garbage. When the new growth occurs in the garden, fertilise it (use any fertiliser you have at hand) and get the plant growing strongly. Now spray it with Zero or Roundup with a few drops of dishwashing liquid added to the weedkiller as a spreader. Keep spraying the weeds each week until they give up. Tenacity is what kills wandering jew, not just the chemicals. And keep your dog off the sprayed areas for a day after spraying each time.

Stephanotis. (Madagascar jasmine) We have received quite a few letters from people who have lost their dogs as a result of them eating the seed pods of stephanotis,

Other poisons

• oleander (Nerium oleander)
• yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana)
• many bulbs (including daffodils, onions and snowdrops)
• toadstools
• tomato plants
• potato plants and green potatoes

Many garden plants are poisonous to dogs, not just those listed here. Puppies to the age of about 18 months are better off kept fenced away from most garden areas. This protects both the dog and the garden. Many indoor plants are poisonous to dogs – so all indoor plants should be moved up out of Fido’s reach.

Bad foods

Curiously, many foods eaten by people are dangerous for dogs:
• onions
• apricot kernels
• macadamia nuts
• chocolate
• avocados
• even grapes, sultanas and raisins could injure or kill your dog.

Other toxins

Not so surprising is the revelation that rat and mouse baits and snail baits also can kill dogs.

Plants dangerous to pets

In cases of poisoning, the veterinary profession is superb at treating dogs, but is not as thorough with plant identification as it should be. This is what we know so far.
Some of our most beautiful and useful plants are deadly to our pets (cats as well as dogs), so it pays to be aware of the risks and keep your pets well away from them.

• Anemone or windflower (A. coronaria)
• Bulbs (onions, plus all the spring-flowering favourites, such as daffodils, tulips, jonquils, and snowdrops)
Caladium bicolor (indoor foliage plant)
• Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis)
• Chalice vine (Solandra maxima)
• Cherry tree (Prunus serrulata)
• Clematis (the large-flowered hybrids)
• Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophylla)
• Cycads (seeds on female plants)
• Daffodils (Narcissus varieties)
• Daphne (various)
• Delphinums
• Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
• Dicentra (Dicentra spectabilis)
• Dieffenbachia
• Euphorbias (poinsettias, Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii, etc)
• Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
• Golden Robinia (R. pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’)
• Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis)
• Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
• Holly (Ilex varieties)
• Hydrangeas
• Indoor Plants: many are poisonous to pets, so it’s wise to keep all indoor plants out of the reach of puppies and kittens especially, but also adult dogs and cats.
• Iris
• Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
• Jasmine (not clear which ones)
• Lantana (L. camara, the common one)
• Lilac (Syringa varieties)
• Liliums: All parts of the plant are particularly toxic to kittens and cats, causing kidney failure and death reactions are not quite so severe in dogs.
• Mountain laurel (Kalmia varieties)
• Mushrooms (not clear which ones)
• Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
• Oaks (Quercus varieties – the acorns are toxic to pets)
• Oleanders (Nerium oleander, Thevetia peruviana)
• Philodendron (many, it appears)
• Pine ((eg, savin, Juniperus sabina, also several others)
• Poinciana (not the tropical tree, but the shrub Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
• Potato pl ants and green potatoes
• Privet (Ligustrum varieties)
• Pyracantha (not clear which one)
• Rhododendron (including azaleas)
• Rhubarb (presumably the leaves)
• Snowdrops (Leucojum)
• Snowflakes (Leucojum)
• Strelitzia (not clear which one)
• Sweet peas
Solandra maxima (chalice vine)
Stephanotis (Madagascar jasmine) (consumption of the seed pods is especially deadly to dogs)
• Strelitzias (Strelitzia reginae, S. nicolai)
• Sweet peas
• Toadstools
• Tomato Plants
• Tulips
• Walnuts (mouldy nuts near the ground)
• Wisteria
• Yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana)
• Yew (Taxus varieties)

We’d be grateful for any feedback on this list, especially other plants where there is evidence that they damage dogs.


Symptoms of Clematis Poisoning in Dogs

The flowering vine known as clematis is always found on plant poisoning lists, though it is not considered to be life-threatening. However, your pet can experience gastrointestinal or dermal irritation if exposed to the clematis. In addition, the amount that your pet consumes will have a bearing on the effects as well smaller dogs will be more affected by a large ingestion, and a pet with underlying health issues will always have a different reaction to eating a plant than a healthy dog will.

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • There may be lack of appetite after eating the plant
  • Pawing at mouth or face
  • Your dog may feel pain at site of contact on the skin

The clematis plant is also known by the names virgin’s bower and leatherflower. There are several varieties of clematis some have larger flowers than others. A few of the names of these varieties are guernsey cream, Parisienne, sugar candy, jackmanii, and Hagley hybrid.