SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Plants that can be toxic to your dog

Dogs quite frequently get sick from eating toxic plants. Effects of the toxicity can range from mild to severe depending on the type of plant, the quantity consumed, and the size of the dog.

It helps to be aware of which plants in your garden and neighbourhood can be harmful. Remove any toxic plants in your house or garden, or put them out of reach of your dog. If you are planning to get new plants or flowers, research beforehand to learn whether or not they are toxic.

Karaka tree berries

In New Zealand you should especially watch out for Karaka tree berries whilst walking your dog during summer. Throughout the warmer months (January – April) the berries ripen, turn orange and fall off the trees – these berries can be FATAL if eaten by dogs.

The kernels in the fruit contain the alkaloid karakin, which is very toxic if ingested by your dog. Signs of Karaka berry poisoning include weakness, vomiting, confusions and convulsions. These symptoms can be delayed by a day or two, so even if they are not displaying symptoms yet, if you are have any concerns that your pet may have eaten any please seek veterinary treatment immediately.

It is also important to note that the berry kernels remain toxic for a long time, so dogs can be poisoned by eating even a previous year’s fruit.

The trees themselves are quite distinct and easy to spot; they have thick dark leaves and can grow up to 15 metres with the berries turning a bright orange colour during fruiting season. These are native trees and are a vital food source for Kereru so we advise that if you have spotted any in your local area, to keep your dog on the lead or take them to an alternative location for a walk.

Please share this information with your family and friends to raise awareness.

Other plants to watch out for in New Zealand include:

  • Black nightshade
  • Deathcap mushroom
  • New Zealand tree nettle (Onga Onga)
  • Daffodils (especially the bulbs)
  • Foxgloves
  • Ivy (some species)
  • Rhubarb
  • Aloe Vera
  • Onions and garlic
  • Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila)
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Tomato Plant (green fruit, stems and leaves)
  • Inch Plant
  • Barley Grass seeds
  • Lilies
  • Kōwhai seeds

It’s important to first check the safety of any plants before your pets have access to them. If you’re unsure about the safety of a particular plant, talk to your veterinarian for advice. The ASPCA has an excellent resource that you can use.

Just to reiterate, a number of plants can cause serious illness and even death in some cases. If your dog shows symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, difficult breathing, abnormal urine (colour, smell, frequency, etc.), salivation, weakness or other abnormal condition contact your vet immediately.

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