Your dog is possibly your best friend, but he’s probably not your smartest friend…

Q: I am a dog lover but I also love my garden and outdoor living space. So far, my lab and my Australian Shepard are respecting our plants… but I’ve heard a number of shrubs and plants can be poisonous to pets…which ones and what should I do?

From John in Topanga Canyon:

ERIC: (singing) Who let the dogs out… wooo woo woo woo. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get carried away there. You wouldn’t think twice about putting him on a leash before crossing a busy intersection and you shouldn’t leave him to his own devices in the garden either. Make sure you know what foliage is toxic and hazardous to your dog’s health and keep those plants OUT of your garden! This is YOUR dog, take responsibility and do your own homework.

Actually, thanks to the ASPCA, we’re going to help you with your homework. Here is a short list of some toxic plants:
Aloe – Symptoms include: vomiting, depression, diarrhea, anorexia, tremors, and change in urine color.

Azaleas/ Rhododendron – Ingestion of a few leaves can cause serious problems.

Calla Lily – Symptoms include: Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.

Fiddle-Leaf – Symptoms are the same as those of the Calla Lily.
Geranium-Leaf Arlia – Symptoms include: Contact dermatitis, vomiting, anorexia, depression.

Oleander – Poisonings can occur from access to pruning or fallen branches. All parts contain a highly toxic cardiac glycoside much like digitoxin, and can cause colic, diarrhea (possibly bloody), sweating, un-coordination, shallow/difficult breathing, muscle tremors and possibly death from cardiac failure.

Sago Palm – Vomiting, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, liver damage, liver failure, death.

Yucca – Symptoms include: Vomiting, diarrhea.

CINDY: Should your four-legged friend show ANY signs of poisoning, call your vet immediately. There are many toxic and potentially deadly plants! Just eating the middle seed from the Sego palm can send your dog into shock. While it might be simpler to ask that harried-looking nurseryman in the orange vest about what plants are safe to have around your dog – let’s face it – he is not going to give the question the attention it deserves. It’s a good idea to keep a down-loadable list of toxic plants in your smartphone! has a list you can download.

Now that we’ve scared you we’ll throw in a little good news – many people believe that poinsettias are hazardous to their animals, but that’s a myth. A dog would have to consume hundreds of poinsettias to do any damage. So bring on the big, red Holiday plants! And speaking of the holidays and your dog, don’t panic if your dog downs a bag of M&M’s. While it’s true that chocolate is definitely not good for dogs, milk chocolate is not quite the danger that dark chocolate is!

Q: My dog digs up the yard – no matter what. Any ideas how to stop her?

From Betty in Barstow

ERIC: Dogs like to be outside any time of year – and if you’ve got yourself a digging-doggy, try this: Sprinkle Cayenne or chili powder where your dog likes to dig. When he tries to dig, he’ll get a big nose full of it. Well, that would stop YOU, wouldn’t it?

CINDY: Keep in mind that many dogs are genetically programmed to dig, dig, dig, so giving your pooch a “digging zone” might just be the solution for man and beast. Create a “sandbox” in a corner of the yard, line the bottom with rocks for good drainage. Bury bones and small dog toys for your dog to discover. Keep a metal rake handy…let’s face it, nature’s going to take its course and deposit all kinds of things you DON’T want in your dog’s dig zone! Keeping the zone fresh will keep dogs and humans happy!

Staying alert to potential dangers in the garden is a small price to pay for your trusted friend. Your dog deserves a toxic free yard and you deserve the peace of mind knowing you’ve provided just that!

Here are a few links with more information:

How to stop dogs from digging
Legal digging zone