Article and Audio Introduction by Les Harrison
With the warmer weather the time for outdoor activities has arrived for all living in the area. It causes much consternation with many parents to have children who want only to stare at a phone and play video games.
This pastime has come under much criticism in recent years. The “experts” believe contemporary youth can be subjected to near countless acts of violence when playing the shoot-em-up games. They also feel those in their formative years will become oblivious to their surroundings while staring into the synthetic reality.
The family dog however is not encumbered by these contemporary electrical pit traps which occupies the mind and entombs the body. When it is time to escape outdoors, there is no reservation about plunging into the paradise of sights, sounds and smells.
It is all so exciting and enticing when escaping the monotony of a cloistered existence. While the dog’s breakout is self-fulfilling ecstasy, the canine’s owner should restrain the pooch for its own good.
This is especially true when it comes to snacking on the landscape since some common shrubs are toxic to dogs. The culinary adventure can injure “man’s (and woman’s) best friend”, and be quite painful to the budget of the doggie’s daddy or mommy.
Sago and Oleander
The sago is a good example of a bad choice for a chew toy. While it is sometimes identified as a palm, it is really a cycad originating in Japan and is very toxic to dogs.
In this specific case all of the plant is toxic. The seeds especially since they contain the greatest amount of the toxic compound cycasin.
Symptoms range from weakness, severe gastric distress, seizures to liver failure and death. At least half the mutts which sample this disastrous delicacy do not survive.
Oleander, the popular flowering shrub which blooms profusely in summer, is another potential source of poison for the family dog. Cultivated for its bright blossoms, it has a recorded history of landscape use for over 2000 years in numerous ancient and modern horticultural settings.
The slender stalks easily fit into a dog’s mouth and can be viewed as a toy after broken or pruned if found in the pet’s domain. Given its ability to grow vigorously in marginal soil, salt tolerance and a variety of flower colors, it is easy to understand it widespread appeal.
Like the sago, all parts of the oleander are toxic. The effects and symptoms of the problematic compounds, cardiac glycosides, vary depending on the consuming species.
Birds and rodents are relatively tolerant to oleander consumption. A few caterpillars thrive on its foliage and use the toxic compound as a means to repel predators, especially birds.
Dogs, though, will exhibit a variety of symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, central nervous system damage, gastrointestinal reactions and death. Problems appear soon after ingestion of oleander and treatment must be undertaken quickly to have any chance of survival for the pup.
Other potential offenders include hydrangea and lantana which contain toxic compounds to deter any animal which may be tempted to take a bite. Still a curious dog may let the exuberance of the moment overtake its natural reluctance to sample odd foliage.
Owners must make the conscience decision to keep Fido away from these deadly beauties. It only seems fair to take necessary precautions for such a long serving and faithful companion.
To learn more about dog friendly landscaping in north Florida, contact the local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Click here for contact information.