My pets and my plants are both pretty high on my priority list, but what happens when these two worlds collide unfavorably? Unfortunately, some of our favorite houseplants might not be safe for our furry friends to nibble and chew, which is why it’s good to know what you can do to prevent them from coming to harm.
Sadly, the Fiddle Leaf Fig, an immensely popular indoor plant, falls into the toxic category when it comes to our pets. That said, you can take steps to prevent your dog or cat from coming into contact with your plants, which I will detail later in this article.
I’ll also be taking you through exactly how toxic a Fiddle Leaf Fig is to a dog and how you can spot signs of ingestion or poisoning. In these situations, it goes without saying that medical attention is your first port of call. However, it’s also good to equip yourself with the facts. So, let’s dive right in and explore all there is to know about cohabitating your canine with your Fiddles.
Are Fiddle Leaf Figs toxic to dogs?
Fiddle Leaf Figs are toxic to dogs, but they aren’t life-threatening, provided contact is minimal. The leaves and stems of a Fiddle Leaf contain a sticky white sap that, when ingested, can irritate the gastrointestinal system and cause vomiting and diarrhea. Contact with the skin can also cause rashes or blisters to form.
Since the dawn of Instagram, Fiddle Leaf Figs have become more popular than ever. And what’s not to love? With their stunning, dark-green, lyre-shaped leaves, Ficus lyrata have a way of lighting up a room and instantly making it feel homier. However, in not-such-great news, they are mildly poisonous to dogs. Not ideal.
As mentioned, Fiddles contain a white sap that irritates the skin and gastrointestinal systems of humans and animals, meaning that fiddle leaf figs are toxic to cats too. This sap contains calcium oxalate crystals, which have sharp edges that nick the sensitive surface of the gastrointestinal tract or skin. Unsurprisingly, this can make an animal feel quite unwell and bring on bouts of vomiting or diarrhea. Skin contact presents as a rash.
Generally speaking, symptoms of toxicity will begin to show relatively soon after your precious pup takes a bite out of your Fiddle Leaf Fig. Because the impact of the Fiddle’s sap is a result of its molecular make-up (sharp crystals), its effect is instantaneous.
Let’s look at exactly how poisonous a Fiddle Leaf Fig is and what you can do to help your doggo feel better.
How poisonous are Fiddle Leaf Figs?
The toxicity levels of plants are classified into four different levels, ranging from highly toxic and life-threatening to mildly poisonous and irritating. The most dangerous of these is level one, with level four being the least harmful. The Fiddle Leaf Fig falls under level four and is therefore considered only mildly toxic to humans and animals.
As far as poisonous plants go, the Fiddle Leaf is not as bad as some. It causes irritation of the skin (known as dermatitis) and mild gastrointestinal distress, provided it is only ingested in a small quantity. Even so, keeping your plants and pets separate is still better if the latter tend to chew on things curiously.
In fact, most houseplants are toxic to a certain degree. Some, like lilies, hydrangeas, oleanders, and mistletoe, are highly poisonous, whereas others, like many in the Ficus genus, are less so. For this reason, it’s always advisable to conduct proper research before purchasing your houseplants, or at the very least, to ensure they’re out of reach of your dogs.
The quantity of consumption also impacts how badly plant toxins affect your dog. A small bite, for example, won’t cause any profound or lasting damage. Chowing down on an entire leaf, on the other hand, might cause slightly bigger problems for your pup.
In good news, they don’t taste great, so the chances that your dog will keep going back for more aren’t great.
Can a Fiddle Leaf Fig kill a dog?
The chances of Fiddle Leaf Fig ingestion killing your dog are slim to none. Phew! However, it can be very irritating and cause symptoms of indigestion (also called dyspepsia), vomiting, and an upset stomach if swallowed.
Usually, this passes quite quickly, and your dog should be fine in no time. But, if the symptoms of dyspepsia are ongoing or severe, you should get your pup to a vet. This is because prolonged gastrointestinal distress can cause other harmful side effects like lethargy and dehydration.
In summary: If your dog is showing signs of fiddle leaf fig poisoning, head to a vet. As always, the best rule of thumb is when in doubt, consult a medical professional!
What if a dog eats a Fiddle Leaf Fig?
If your dog has eaten part of a Fiddle Leaf Fig and starts to show symptoms of ill health, monitor them closely to see how severe the adverse effects are. If your animal becomes severely unwell or remains sick for a prolonged period, get them to a vet as soon as possible.
While we now know that Fiddles aren’t highly toxic to dogs and shouldn’t cause too many problems other than a bit of indigestion if swallowed, it’s always good to err on the side of caution if they seem uncharacteristically distressed. This is especially relevant if they’ve consumed a lot of your Fig – which means more oxalate crystals and greater permeation of the gastrointestinal tract’s lining.
Keeping an eye on your dog’s every move is well-nigh impossible, so it can be challenging to determine what’s wrong if they suddenly become sick. That said, if you have a lot of houseplants, this is usually a good place to start looking, as it’s one of the most common toxins for animals found in an everyday home environment.
The golden rule is: if you’re worried, ask your vet. There’s no harm in taking your pup for a check-up, even if they seem okay after eating a Fiddle Leaf Fig. It’s worth it for your peace of mind.
Signs of Fiddle Leaf Fig poisoning in dogs
The leading indicators of Fiddle Leaf Fig poisoning in dogs are vomiting and diarrhea. Skin contact, conversely, usually results in a rash or blisters forming on the skin. In both cases, the severity of symptoms depends on how much plant your dog has ingested or been in contact with.
Symptoms of plant poisoning in animals vary depending on the type and toxicity level of the plant. Some plants, like Ficus lyrata, are only mildly toxic and cause temporary distress, whereas others can cause organ failure and difficulty breathing.
Dogs are naturally curious and may take a nip at houseplants just to see what they’re all about. A small taste won’t do much other than give them mild indigestion and an irritated throat. Larger quantities can make them vomit as the body tries to rid itself of the irritating substance. Indigestion can also cause an upset stomach, but it shouldn’t last very long.
If your dog has gone all out and eaten a fair portion of Fiddle Leaf, they may experience a prolonged bout of vomiting which can make them lethargic. In this case, it’s essential that they drink a lot of water to cleanse their systems. Should your pup become dehydrated, get them to a vet who can provide them with a drip.
Poisoning, no matter how mild, is never fun for a dog. If they seem unwell, monitor them closely to ensure they’re fully recovered, or seek medical consultation to develop a treatment plan. Skin rashes can usually be cleared up with a topical ointment.
How to keep your dog away from your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Prevention is always better than cure, so if you have a curious dog but you also want houseplants, figure out clever ways to keep the two separate. Effective methods of keeping dogs away from Fiddle Leaf Figs include dousing them in pepper, spraying them with lemon juice, or keeping them out of reach.
Just because Fiddle Leaf Figs are mildly toxic to dogs, it doesn’t mean you can’t have them in your home at all. Let’s look at a few proven ways to prevent your pup from chewing your Fiddle.
1. Place your plant out of reach
What your dog can’t reach can’t hurt them, so if you really want to keep your pet out of harm’s way, situate your Fiddle Leaf Fig in a spot that is impossible to reach.
Placing your houseplants on high shelves or as table centerpieces diminishes the chance of curious jowls finding them and doesn’t detract from their aesthetic. That said, when you put a new plant in your house, always monitor it for a few days to ensure it’s not sparking any interest.
2. Pepper your plant with pepper
Fiddle Leaf Figs don’t taste great to animals in general, but each to their own, so some may still be inclined to chew on them. To deter this, you can spray or sprinkle your Fiddle Leaf Fig with pepper.
The spiciness of pepper will irritate your dog’s nose and send them on their way before they have a chance to take a bite. The downside is that pepper is also quite annoying to the human nose, so practice this preventative measure in small doses.
3. Add citrus juice or peels
Citrus has a sharp, tangy scent that animals like dogs and cats don’t generally enjoy. To stop them from investigating a fiddle leaf fig, you can either spray it with lemon juice or spring lemon peels around the base.
This is a great, safe, and pleasant-smelling dog deterrent that only requires a top-up every week or so. Decomposing peels also offer beneficial nutrients and vitamins to the soil that can improve your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s health overall.
4. Try companion planting
Another great way to keep your pets away from your Ficus is to surround them with other plants that dogs famously hate. Marigolds and bergamots, for example, smell terrible to pups and will stop them from coming close to your Fiddle Leaf.
Plus, companion planting also increases the humidity levels in the air, keeping all your greenery happier and healthier – a win-win situation for all.
5. Use liquid repellents and essential oils
Because curious pets are a known problem for certain plants, there are plenty of safe liquid repellents available from nurseries and garden centers that you can spray on your plants or embed in their soil. These are developed specifically for this purpose and are therefore not harmful.
The pet-deterrent spray from Joproch is great for both cats and dogs (check the latest price here). You can even use it to stop them from nibbling other things, like furniture and electrical cords.
Essential oils can also be effective. Popping a few drops of strong-smelling oils will crinkle your pup’s nose and hopefully keep them away. Even so, essential oils can cause root burn, so keep an eye on your plant and administer them sparingly.
6. Train your dog
Most dogs respond well to behavior training, and while this can take a while to get across, teaching your dog to stay away from your plants is the most lasting way of preventing future issues. Dog trainers recommend keeping a spray bottle nearby and disciplining your dog with a light water shower if they go near your plants or try to chew them.
Over time, they’ll learn that this is not acceptable and stop trying to chew on your greenery.
7. Give your pup a balanced diet
When dogs go for plants, it’s not always because they feel mischievous or destructive. Sometimes, they’ll be looking for something to make up for a deficit in their diet, like nutrients or minerals. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure your animals have a healthy, balanced diet that satisfies their needs.
8. Embrace a combination of approaches
While most of these deterrents work in isolation, the best approach is to try a combination. For example, citrus peels plus behavioral training will teach your dog that plants are not chew toys, especially when they’re younger and more adaptive.
In general, teaching your dogs not to bite things is a good idea, so why not start with your houseplants?
9. Move your Fiddle Leaf Fig outdoors
Fiddle Leaf Figs look just as good outside as indoors, but it’s harder to control access to them when they’re freely within your dog’s reach.
If this is the case, consider fencing in your Fiddle so your dog cannot reach it. At the same time, train them not to bite plants so that they don’t nip at other, potentially more toxic plants in the future.