Pothos plants (Epipremnum aurum) are one of the most common houseplants around at the moment. You may be tempted to do the same, given how beautiful this plant is and how easy it is to care for.
But if you’ve got any four-legged family members, it’s definitely worth asking the question before bringing this plant into your home: are pothos toxic to dogs?
After all, as much as adding a pothos to your plant collection would definitely elevate your home, things can really come crashing down quickly if this beauty starts making your pets sick – or worse.
This is especially if you’ve got a pet that likes to chew everything in sight. In those cases, it’s best to choose plants that are safe for dogs. So can you have a pothos plant if you have a dog? And what happens if your dog eats a pothos plant, despite all your best efforts?
Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.
Are pothos toxic to dogs?
Pothos are toxic to dogs and while it’s rare for this to be fatal, it is possible. Usually, it is more of an irritant, with the calcium oxalates in the stem leaves being quite painful for cats and dogs, often making it difficult for your pet to breathe or swallow and can cause vomiting.
A dog (or cat) who ingests a pothos plant has “Golden Pothos Tree Poisoning” or “Pothos Poisoning.” In such cases, the animal will generally feel uncomfortable (or in pain) immediately during or after ingesting the pothos plant. This usually deters them from eating or chewing on the plant further, though there are always rare exceptions with pets.
How this works: The calcium oxalates in the pothos’ stem and leaves are insoluble. This means that they act like microscopically sharp crystals or needles when they are crushed – like when they’re chewed – or exposed to saliva or stomach acid.
While, as mentioned, small quantities tend to simply irritate an animal, if large quantities are ingested, they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, the razor-sharp crystals are transported and then delivered to the heart, kidneys, liver, or the bloodstream itself. When this happens, the steroidal saponins can further irritate the tissues and cause swelling in the organs affected.
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How poisonous is pothos?
Pothos are rarely fatal, mostly because they are so painful for animals to eat only small amounts so they tend to stop. Usually, if a pet were to die because of a pothos plant, it is usually because of asphyxiation from the size of the leaves and not because of a chemical reaction or other internal issues.
The glossy leaves range from one to nine inches long and a half-inch to five inches wide – the perfect size to become lodged in the throat or windpipe and cause suffocation or choking.
That said, pothos do have some poisons inside of them, including the following organic, insoluble toxins: calcium carbonate, calcium oxalate, multiple glycosides, and multiple saponins.
Which part of the pothos plant is toxic?
The stems and leaves of the pothos plant are toxic to humans, cats, dogs, and most other animals. This is because these are the parts of the plant that contain microscopically small insoluble calcium oxalates. These are razor-sharp, painful, and can result in long-lasting irritation, and even death in rare cases.
Other toxins in the plant include calcium carbonate, several forms of glycosides, and several forms of saponins. These toxins are not particularly powerful, so large amounts – as in, nearly the entire plant – would need to be consumed in order to be deadly.
Still, ingesting pothos plants is uncomfortable, painful, and scary. Swelling, tingling, and burning sensations are common side effects and medical attention should be sought if anyone – human or animal – ingests any.
Are pothos toxic to all pets?
Pothos are toxic to dogs and almost all pets (and livestock), including cats, horses, guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, hamsters, birds, rabbits, horses, cattle, sheep, and others.People, especially small children, are also prone to the toxicity and painful symptoms of pothos poisoning.
Safe to say, this isn’t a plant that any living creature should really be chewing on.
What happens if my dog eats a pothos plant?
If your dog eats a pothos plant, the first signs you’ll likely notice are distress signs such as difficulty breathing, panting, excessive yawning, whining, yelping, barking, pawing at the face, pawing at the mouth, or pawing at the throat.
The pothos plant is likely burning its nose, mouth, lips, throat, and tongue. It is also causing swelling to each of these areas, which is uncomfortable, scary, and upsetting for almost all pets.
Upon closer inspection, you’ll likely find airway constriction, swelling all over the face, mouth, throat, paws, lips, and tongue, foaming at the mouth, drooling, and an irregular heartbeat. This increases stress cortisol levels and will likely make your dog act frantic or erratic.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten a pothos plant – or anything that may be causing some of these symptoms, get them to a vet ASAP. In most cases, consuming part of a pothos won’t be fatal to your dog, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
After a few minutes, your dog will begin to gag and vomit. Vomiting is good and necessary, though it removes most of the harmful toxins that your dog ingested. Even after vomiting, your pet is unlikely to regain its appetite for at least a day, sometimes longer.
Dehydration is always a more significant issue than hunger for most house pets. Your pet may have some toxins still left in their digestive tract, and beyond that, is likely to need an IV to prevent or reverse the damages of dehydration – so get them to a vet.
What to do if my dog eats pothos?
If you have a dog who simply chewed on a leaf, they will likely be fine in the end. That said, it is best to take your dog to their veterinarian right away just to be sure. Be sure to bring part of your pothos plant with you so your vet can diagnose the poisoning faster.
Some of the things you’ll need to tell your vet include the following:
- Try to remember the size of the plant before your pet ate it so you can estimate how much was consumed.
- You should also tell your vet the window in which you believe your pet consumed your pothos plant; this will also help with diagnosis and treatment.
- You should also talk to your vet about the symptoms your dog has already exhibited, even if those symptoms are no longer happening.
- Your vet will inquire about your dog’s age, when they last ate (not the pothos, but their designated food), vaccination records, temperament, and medical history. They will also weigh your pet to compare the consumption, and to know how to treat the animal.
Once this is out of the way, your dog’s veterinarian will run a thorough physical examination. This exam will cover physical appearance, reflexes, breath sounds, breathing patterns, heartbeat patterns, blood pressure, body temperature, blood oxygen level (also known as pulse oximetry), heart rate, and lastly, an inspection of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat.
Veterinarian’s next steps
If your vet is concerned with your dog’s condition, or believes your dog ingested considerable amounts of the pothos plant, they may run laboratory tests. These tests check for complete blood count, blood gasses, your dog’s overall biochemistry profile, electrolyte levels, and finally, urine testing to check blood urea nitrogen, also called BUN. BUN levels increase proportionately with the levels of pothos poisoning.
Should your dog’s breathing or heart rate be irregular or labored, the vet will most likely run an endoscopy through the throat to observe the upper airway of your dog. If there are any chunks of the plant left behind, the endoscope will be able to grasp and remove those.
After the general exam and tests are concluded, your dog’s vet may decide to evacuate your dog’s stomach. This is uncomfortable at first, but will bring some relief immediately. To induce vomiting, the vet will give your dog a peroxide solution.
Once your dog has stopped vomiting, the vet may use a charcoal lavage to clear any leftover bits or toxins remaining in the stomach. This charcoal surrounds and then absorbs the pothos toxins so it cannot further damage your pet’s internals. The charcoal brings another level of relief too, once completed.
Finally, most dogs who ingest pothos plants will not have any desire to eat or drink for at least a day. Because of this, your vet will likely want to keep your pet overnight so they can keep your pet attached to an IV to avoid dehydration. This also gives the veterinarian a chance to check vitals and ensure that your pet is improving every hour.
Are any pothos pet friendly?
No variety of pothos plants are pet friendly or non-toxic. All species of pothos plants are toxic to people and pets alike. This is why, if you have a pet that likes to chew, you may want to consider only getting plants that are safe for dogs.
Of course, you could simply put the plant high enough so that your dog can’t reach it, although if you have a cat that can make this a bit harder.
Are marble pothos toxic to dogs?
Marble pothos plants are toxic to dogs, as well as all other pets and people. This is despite the fact that they look different from other types of pothos. In this sense, they share a characteristic with all types of pothos in that they are also poisonous to dogs.
A similar solution needs to be found here – either keep it up away from any pets (and small humans) or consider getting a non-toxic plant instead.
Can I have a pothos plant if I have a dog?
You can have a pothos plant if you have a dog, although it does take a certain level of awareness and implementing some safety precautions to ensure that your plant and pet can cohabitate peacefully.
While some pet owners take extreme caution with toxic houseplants, it is not strictly necessary to cut out the plants you love to protect your beloved pet. For instance, I have friends who have allowed their cats and dogs to free-roam around all of my plants, even toxic ones, and have never had an issue.
My dog, like most dogs, has never taken an interest in any of my houseplants. My cats have, on occasion, “hole-punched” a leaf or two. That is, they just bite a few sharp little teeth right through the leaf, leaving comically dainty, pinpoint-sized holes in the pothos’ leaves. They quickly learned which plants, like the pothos, hurt and never hole-punched them again.
Still, I have a friend with a dog who finds her houseplants utterly appetizing. He has had his stomach pumped and been forced to vomit at the vet’s office multiple times, but nothing phases him! It’s when you have pets like that where it’s probably a better idea to keep the plant out of your pet’s way. Whether that means putting it up high or in a room where your dog can’t enter, either option is better than another trip to the vet – or worse.
How to keep pothos away from dogs?
The best way to keep pothos away from dogs is to keep them completely out of reach of your pet and to supervise them whenever possible. Don’t place your plant directly on the floor where it is eye-level for your dog. Keep plants up on a high surface or hang it in macrame hangers.
Treat your dog as if he or she were a toddler. It is perfectly acceptable to use baby gates, locking systems, and corrals to keep your pet and plants safe.
If your pet will be around your plants, make sure that you’re around to supervise, especially if your pet has shown an interest in potted plants before.
When you aren’t around, either move all your plants to a locked room, confine your dog to a locked room, or crate train your dog.