Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Houseplants and Ornamentals


Cecil F. Brownie

, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABFE, DABFM, FACFEI, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2015 | Modified Nov 2022
Topic Resources

Plants are an important part of the decor of homes; pets having access to these plants often chew on or ingest them, with toxicity a possible outcome ( see Table: Poisonous Houseplants and Ornamentals a Poisonous Houseplants and Ornamentals a Poisonous Houseplants and Ornamentals <sup >a</sup> ). Inquiries to poison control centers on plants ingested by children <5 yr old are estimated at 5%–10% of all inquiries. Similar estimates (although not documented) could be made for pets.

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 any and 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 (eg, pets commonly chew the leaves or ripe berries of potentially poisonous plants placed in the home during holidays).

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