THE MERCK VETERINARY MANUAL
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Houseplants and Ornamentals

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Plants are an important part of the decor of homes; pets often chew on or ingest these plants, which can result in toxicoses (see Table 1: Poisonous Houseplants and OrnamentalsTables). Inquiries to poison control centers on plants ingested by children <5 yr old are estimated at 5–10% of all inquiries. Similar estimates (though not documented) could be made for pets.

Table 1

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Little research has been done on the toxicity of houseplants. Most are hybrids, and selecting for growth outside their natural environment could affect their degree of toxicity. Age of the pet, boredom, and changes in the surroundings are factors that may affect the incidence of poisoning. Puppies and kittens are very inquisitive, and mouth or chew almost everything. Pets (especially single household pets) of all ages may become bored or restless if left alone or confined for too long at any one time, and chewing on objects for relief is common. Pets of all ages also explore changes in their environment; for example, pets commonly chew the leaves or ripe berries of potentially poisonous plants that are placed in the home during holidays.

Last full review/revision May 2012 by Cecil F. Brownie, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABFE, DABFM, FACFEI

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