How do I know what is safe for my dogs to eat?

We all now know the dangers of our dogs eating chocolate – but I was shocked and saddened to hear that a gorgeous, happy, healthy and young dog I had recently photographed had become seriously ill after eating something toxic on a walk.Toxic to dogs-8Beautiful Luey was a much loved, active dog who loved his frisbee and enjoyed doing agility.  Sadly his life was cut tragically short when he appeared to eat the berries of a yew tree.

This devastating tragedy led me to seek advice about the toxicity of everyday plants and trees around me, so that I could become more knowledgable and keep my own dogs safe.

I was very fortunate to be able to attend a workshop hosted by Donna McCausland of Stop and Paws Therapy.

Donna uses natural therapies to maintain the health of your dog, using an holistic approach, and she was very generous in sharing the following with me, which I hope you will find equally informative:

“Dogs are commonly known as descending from wolves, and in the wild wolves do not have access to vets or the pharmaceutical products that everyday domestic animals do.

In this situation, they would use the plants and earth around them to provide the benefits or medicines that their bodies need.

plants that are toxic to dogs-1-2

Wolves are not unique in this, as chimps are known to eat a toxic plant but select the exact amount they need to remove parasites.

We have often seen that dogs will be out on a walk and will ‘graze’ on grass and if you have stopped to watch them you will see them specifically selecting a particular blade for them to nibble on.

Dogs will use grasses for a number of reasons as they can be nutritional for them and different grasses have different nutritional values within them, however, dogs will also use the grass to purge (be sick) and bring up something (sometimes just bile), but they may also use it to detox and will excrete it.

While there is an element of a dog using its natural instinct of self-selection on plants, there is also a responsibility to watch what your dog is expressing an interest in to ensure that it is not toxic.

Ziva selecting grass.  Photo credit: Donna McCausland

A dog may eat a toxic plant in error, to make itself purge for a specific reason, because they do not recognise the plant but it is not always possible to say why – it may just have an appeal to their senses.

plants that are toxic to dogs-5One example is Common Comfrey, which used to be common in the hedgerows in this country, however there is now a hybrid version known as Russian Comfrey that contains high levels of potassium but is sadly more common and can cause a risk to dogs.

This, for example is where having the ‘safe’ plant in your garden is a better option for the dog.

plants that are toxic to dogs-2This is why keeping an eye on what your dog is interested in is important as sadly there have been instances recently where dogs have eaten plants that have subsequently caused them to lose their lives as the plant was toxic.

This is not just applicable to a walk it applies to the garden too where people do not always consider the harmful plants it may contain.

plants that are toxic to dogs-3Lilies while being beautiful plants are toxic to dogs, equally a puppy, who explores the world with their mouth, may find a bulb a very attractive toy to play with and eat with tragic consequences.

One way of adapting your garden is to plant herbs and flowers that not only are safe for the dogs to eat but that they can use them to self-medicate.

plants that are toxic to dogs-1-3Examples of these include Yarrow, Roman Chamomile and German Chamomile, Peppermint, Catmint, Lemon Balm to name but a few.

Later within this document are links to help create a safe, self-selecting garden for dogs.

To identify plants easily on a walk a plant identification app (e.g. Plantnet or PlantSnap) is very beneficial.

plants that are toxic to dogs-6Once you have identified if a plant is safe or not you are then aware when walking what to get your dog to avoid and what is safe for them to investigate.

Where an app provides more than one identification to a plant, be safe, don’t let your dog eat it unless you are sure what it is.

Do not forget that plants change as the seasons do so watch for changes in plants and check if these are safe as some plants like conkers are seasonal.

plants that are toxic to dogs-7Detailed below are some of the more common plants that may be seen on a walk that are toxic to dogs.

  • Daffodil            All parts of the plant are dangerous and even the water that cut daffodils have been sitting in toxic to dogs
  • Ragwort          All parts and even a small part can be fatal
  • Snowdrops      All parts but the bulbs particularly are the most toxic for dogs
  • Bluebells         Harmful if eaten in quantity toxic to dogs
  • Buttercup        The juice may severely injure the digestive system and may cause a skin allergy
  • Elder               All parts including the elderberries are poisonous
  • Conkers and Acorns             These are toxic and serious cases are rare but they can cause stomach issues including blockages in the intestine toxic to dogs
  • Holly                All parts and eating the leaves can cause damage to the throat, stomach or guts.  They may also try to eat the berries.
  • Cherry Laurel  A common hedging plant used in gardens and public parks but dogs can be poisoned by the plant from eating or chewing the leaves.
  • Foxtail             Not directly toxic but the seeds are barbed and can lodge into skin, ears, eyes or even under the skin and cause problems for the dog.
  • Ivy                   Ingesting can cause poisoning toxic to dogs
  • Oak leaves      Can be harmful if eaten
  • Rape               Can cause a number of issues such as anaemia, blindness, damage to the nervous system, digestive disorders and breathing problems.
  • Yew                 All parts are harmful including dried clippings and ingesting just a small amount of leaves can be fatal to a dog. plants that are toxic to dogs

There are links at the bottom of this to provide a full list of those plants to be avoided which include plants like rhododendron which again are beautiful, but are highly poisonous to dogs.

For those that grow home vegetables please also be aware that the leaves on potatoes can be toxic to dogs as can raw, green or sprouting potatoes.

Similarly, the leaves and unripe fruit on tomato plants are toxic to dogs.  In addition, apple seeds contain cyanide so can produce varied toxic effects”

More information on poisonous plants is available from:

Advice on creating an animal friendly garden is available from:


I hope you have found this article useful – please remember to take a look at Stop and Paws Therapy 

Thank you again to Donna for writing such an informative article

plants that are toxic to dogs-4Please take a look at for more information about the service Donna offers

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