If you are into gardening, you may be wondering whether pothos are toxic to dogs.
Pothos are an attractive addition to any indoor or outdoor décor, but did you know that this innocent-looking speckled green vine is toxic to dogs?
Unfortunately, pothos, also known as Devil's Ivy, is highly toxic to dogs (after all, it has the word poison in its name).
Pothos is on the ASPCA's list of toxic plants, meaning you need to keep your dog away from this speckled decorative plant.
In this article, we discuss whether pothos is toxic to dogs, what parts can be toxic and how much can be troublesome for small or big dogs.
We will also cover the signs of pothos toxicity and what the treatment entails when dogs eat toxic amounts.
101 Crash Course on Pothos Plants
Before we discuss pothos toxicity, we should say a word or two about the plant itself.
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) belongs to the Araceae family and is native to islands in French Polynesia.
It is known by many names, including Solomon Islands ivy, taro vine, marble queen, golden pothos, money plant, ivy arum, hunter’s robe, silver vine, Ceylon creeper, etc.
Pothos is an evergreen vine that grows up to 66 feet tall and climbs using aerial roots. The alternate leaves are heart-shaped and up to 8-inch long.
Interestingly, pothos is a flowering vine, but spontaneous flowering is rare and usually requires artificial hormonal supplementation.
Pothos is one of the most popular plants because it is relatively easy to take care of – does not need special rituals, thrives in sun-challenged homes, and is not susceptible to beginner mistakes.
In fact, pothos grows quickly and effortlessly to the point it is classified as an invasive species. indeed, it is also called Devil’s ivy because it is impossible to kill!
Are Pothos Toxic to Dogs?
Pothos are toxic to dogs (as wells as cats, horses, and humans). The toxic principle of this plant is based on the fact it contains insoluble calcium oxalates (mostly concentrated in the plant’s leaves).
Biting and chewing on the pothos leaves therefore releases these needle-like crystals.
Once released, the calcium oxalates penetrate the mouth’s mucosal lining causing micro-injuries that result in severe oral irritation – intense and painful burning of the lips, mouth, tongue, and oral soft tissues.
As the pothos leaves travel down the GI tract, so does the burning sensation.
There is one more pothos-related danger for dogs – the plant's sap is irritating too. Namely, a dog does not even have to ingest it – simply rubbing off of the plant can result in severe skin and eye irritation.
Signs of Pothos Toxicity in Dogs
Knowing the signs and symptoms of pothos poisoning in dogs is critical for seeking veterinary help in a timely manner. The exact signs and symptoms depend on the severity of the poisoning:
Mild pothos poisoning can cause the following signs:
- Oral pain and pawing at the mouth
- Swelling of the mouth, lips, and tongue
- Irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue
- Hypersalivation (excessive drooling
Moderate pothos poisoning can cause the following signs: (in addition to the mild signs)
- Irritation of the eyes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Irritability followed by lethargy
- Coughing and gagging
Severe pothos poisoning can cause the following signs: (in addition to the mild, moderate signs)
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Foaming at the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Tremors and seizures
- Calcium oxalate crystals in urine.
It should be noted that on rare occasions, pothos may cause swelling of the upper airways. This is an even more serious complication because once the upper airways swell, they compromise breathing. Luckily, this complication is very rare.
Diagnosis of Pothos Poisoning in Dogs
Sadly, there are no special tests and procedures the veterinarian can make that will confirm the pothos poisoning as a diagnosis.
Therefore, in most cases, the assumption is made based on the changes inside the dog’s mouth in combination with the stomach upset signs and the fact you have a pothos plant at home.
Before initiating treatment, the vet will perform blood works – a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panels to assess how the internal organs function and a packed cell volume (PCV) to evaluate the dog's hydration status.
The vet may also perform a urinalysis to check the kidneys and see if there is crystal formation in the urine.
Useful tip: If you found chewed plant parts in the house, it is advisable to bring them along when going to the vet's office for exact identification. Plants are often misidentified (even in stores).
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Treatment of Pothos Poisoning in Dogs
The first aid for pothos poisoning in dogs is washing out the mouth. The goal is to rinse the remaining calcium oxalate crystals and prevent further damage.
Once the mouth is well-washed, the vet will start addressing the additional symptoms.
More often than not, the vet will start the dog on intravenous fluid therapy to flush out the toxin from the body (thus preventing kidney damage) and maintain normal hydration status.
A diuretic (e.g., furosemide) is given to stimulate more frequent urination and help remove the crystals before they cause permanent damage (the longer they stay in the urinary tract, the more likely they will cause damage).
As mentioned, on rare occasions, pothos ingestion may result in airway swelling and impaired breathing.
This is a more difficult situation and requires a different approach – the vet will have to place the dog in an oxygen cage or, in case of extreme swelling, intubate and maintain oxygen supplementation until stabilization.
In the meanwhile, antihistamines will be given to reduce the swelling.
Recovery of Pothos Toxicity in Dogs
The recovery depends on three key factors – the dog's size, the amount of consumed pothos leaves, and the promptness of the treatment.
Like in all other poisoning cases, the sooner you seek help and treatment is initiated, the better the outcome.
During the recovery period, the lining of the mouth and lower parts of the digestive system will still be sensitive, which is why it is highly advisable to feed your dog smooth textured foods instead of regular kibble.
For example, a bland diet for dogs is perfect – it is soft, stomach-calming, and will keep your dog well-nourished.
How to Prevent Future Pothos Accidents
There is a popular misconception that dogs stay away from dangerous plants (that they are instinctually inclined to avoid certain potentially hazardous plants).
This is not true. Quite the opposite – dogs are naturally curious and like to experience the world through their hasty teeth (take a lick or bite of everything they encounter).
Therefore, having a pothos plant in the house (or garden) and expecting your dog to stay away from it because it somehow knows the plant is dangerous will not work!
When it comes to preventing plant intoxications, it is totally up to you to prevent incidents.
Namely, if you absolutely have to have pothos, make sure they are out of your dog's reach. However, there are two caveats.
First, dogs are very creative and may surprise you with their range of reach. Second, the pothos leaves fall, and even if the plant is in a safe place, your dog can easily pick up the leaves from the ground.
The bottom line, the safest option would be to skip on the pothos and stick to more dog-friendly plants. Even with them, there is a risk of a stomach upset, but at least you will not be dealing with life-threatening situations.
Can Dog Owners Have Plants?
Yes, pet owners can have plants. However, they need to be mindful about the choices and their dog's habits (some like munching on plants while others are not interested at all).
With that being said, we should note that there is no such thing as a truly pet-friendly plant. Basically, every plant has the potential to trigger digestive upset if consumed excessively.
Therefore when we talk about a dog-friendly plant, we refer to the fact that it is non-toxic and safe for dogs to get a bit or two, but anything more than that is likely to trigger vomiting, diarrhea, and stomachache.
11 Alternatives to Pothos Plants
Now that you know what dog-friendly plants mean, you can consider some of the following choices which ASPCA classifies on the list of :“11 Common Plants that are Safe for Cats and Dogs:”
- Spider Plant
- Cast Iron Plant
- Rubber Plants
- Boston Fern
- African Violet
- Blue Echeveria
- Christmas Cactus
- Donkey’s Tail
- Parlor Palm
- Gerbera Daisy
- Phalaenopsis Orchid
Plants to Keep Out of a Dog's Reach
On the other hand, you need to avoid the plants on the following list as they are extremely toxic to dogs, and ingestions can have fatal consequences:
- Aloe Vera
- Autumn Crocus
- Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Jade (Crassula ovata)
- Dumb Dane (Dieffenbachia)
- Elephant Ear (Caladium)
- Castor Bean
- Sago Palm (Cucas revoluta)
- ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas)
- Sowbread (Cyclamen)
- Asparagus Fern.
Sadly, pothos is not an option if you are a dog parent. Even if your dog is not a keen plant chewer, there is always a chance your dog will change its mind and decide to try the plant.
Pothos toxicity is a serious issue that, based on the amount of consumed pothos and the dog's size and overall health profile, can have lethal consequences.
In case your dog eats some pothos (in your home or outside), you need to contact your trusted veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline.
So, if you have a dog and like gardening, you need to cross pothos off the list and consider some pet-friendly greeneries like Christmas Cactus, Echeveria, Donkey’s Tail, or Spider Plant.