Tips From the Pet Poison HELPLINE — Azaleas & Rhododendrons

We all want to keep our furbabies safe and healthy. Dogster Kristy Sweetland, furmom to Seva and Finlay, will be providing weekly tips and warnings...

Joy  |  Apr 18th 2007


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We all want to keep our furbabies safe and healthy. Dogster Kristy Sweetland, furmom to Seva and Finlay, will be providing weekly tips and warnings from the Pet Poison HELPLINE to make that job easier. As a veterinary technician with the Pet Poison HELPLINE she’s going to help us all stay more on top of what’s dangerous for our furry family members.

Azaleas & Rhododendrons

Spring is finally here! In certain parts of the country, gardens are already blooming. If your dog or cat likes to graze in your garden, watch them closely around any plants in the Rhododendron family. Members of this toxic group of flowering plants, including the popular Azalea, are present in many yards across America.

All parts of these plants are toxic. The principal toxins, referred to as grayanotoxins, wreak havoc on a dogs or cats gastrointestinal (stomach & intestines), cardiovascular (heart), and central nervous (brain & spinal cord) system. If your pet has ingested pieces or parts of these plants, you could expect to see vomiting and diarrhea, muscle weakness, changes in the heart rate and rhythm, tremors, seizures, difficulty breathing, paralysis and coma. Temporary blindness is sometimes observed. All signs are obvious within 12 hours of ingestion and may occur as rapidly as one hour afterwards.

If you suspect your pet has been nibbling on a Rhododendron or Azalea, regardless of quantity involved, contact a veterinary professional immediately. Negating the effects of the grayanotoxins before they are absorbed and metabolized helps prevent toxicity from occurring. Once clinical signs are present, intensive care hospitalization and treatment can be performed to offer your pet a favorable prognosis. Without any intervention, the outcome will likely be less optimistic. As with any toxicity, the key to success is rapid action or, more ideally, complete prevention. With this knowledge, I leave you with fond wishes for happy gardening and a wonderful Spring!