Did your curious cat or puppy nibble on your philodendron? Or did your toddler put a leaf in his mouth? If so, you may be wondering if philodendron is toxic to pets and babies.
If your babies or pets consume philodendrons, they can experience irritation and swelling in their mouths and throats, as well as difficulty breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is because the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals.
So, what to do if your baby or pet has eaten philodendron? And how to prevent it from happening in the first place?
Let’s take a closer look at philodendron toxicity in pets and babies, and what you can do to keep them safe.
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Calcium Oxalate Crystals In Philodendron
When chewed, the calcium oxalate crystals in Philodendron are released.
When the crystals penetrate the body tissues, they cause the lips, tongue, and throat to swell and burn. They also cause diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.
If Philodendrons aren’t placed out of reach, pets and children may chew the leaves and stems.
Besides the burning sensation, the insoluble crystal oxalate crystals in Philodendron may cause severe poisoning when consumed in large quantities.
What Is Oxalate Crystal?
Plants form oxalate crystals as an inbuilt defense mechanism to keep herbivores from eating them. These crystals occur in different concentrations in plant foods and ornamental plants.
Oxalate crystal is an insoluble bio-mineral salt found in plant tissues. The crystal is formed when oxalic acid binds itself with calcium. Oxalate crystals are found in many plant foods, including leafy greens, nuts, and fruits. However, oxalate crystals can be toxic in high concentrations.
Oxalate crystals are available in different sizes and shapes. Although they can be poisonous to humans and animals, oxalate crystals perform important functions in plants, including regulating calcium in tissues and metal detoxification.
To learn more about oxalate crystals and how they form, watch this YouTube video as it illustrates their formation in plants and their impact when ingested:
What Part of the Philodendron Is Poisonous?
Philodendron is toxic because it contains high concentrations of calcium oxalate crystals. Whether planted in pots as ornamental indoor plants or outdoors, the risk of poisoning is still high to people and pets.
Every part of the Philodendron is toxic. The spike-like calcium oxalate crystals are found in the leaves, aerial roots, stems, flowers, and berries. Also, the sap causes skin and eye irritation, a burning sensation, mouth blisters, diarrhea, and a hoarse voice.
Since oxalic acid and calcium are found in the entire plant, the insoluble crystals can form anywhere.
That’s why the entire Philodendron plant is considered toxic and unsafe to have within easy reach of children and pets.
How Toxic Is Oxalate Crystal When Consumed by Pets?
How toxic oxalate crystals are will depend on how much your pet consumes. The effects of the ingestion vary, from mild to severe.
An oxalate crystal can be very toxic to pets when consumed in high quantities. Severe symptoms include breathing difficulties and damage in the digestive tract. However, mild poisoning only results in skin irritation, oral irritation, excessive drooling, pain, and swelling at the mouth.
Undoubtedly, ingestion of oxalate crystals is distressing to pets. Some of the symptoms occur as soon as your pet comes into contact with the sap of the Philodendron.
More severe symptoms occur when the oxalate crystals get into the bloodstream.
Signs of Oxalate Crystal Poisoning in Pets
If your pet has chewed Philodendron or if you suspect your pet has come into contact with oxalate crystals, you should look out for symptoms of poisoning. Don’t overlook the symptoms, even if it’s mild, because severe symptoms can occur later.
The following are some of the common poisoning symptoms in pets:
- Oral pain and irritation
- Mouth blisters
- Swollen lips and tongue
- Difficulty swallowing
- Teary eyes
- Swelling around the eyes
- Unusual attempts to rub at the eyes
- Breathing difficulties
- Horse barking
Even if you didn’t see your dog ingest Philodendron, you should consider the possibility of Philodendron poisoning if it shows these signs. Don’t wait for severe symptoms before contacting your vet.
Treatments & Recovery
If you notice your dog has chewed your indoor Philodendron, you’ll have an easier time identifying poisoning symptoms. However, even if you notice the symptoms but are unsure what your dog consumed, your vet may have an idea.
For your pet to get the right treatment for oxalate crystal poisoning, do the following:
- Administer first aid immediately. Use water or milk to rinse your pet’s mouth thoroughly.
- Give your pet milk to drink since it’ll break down the oxalate crystals. The calcium will bind itself to the milk, reducing the pain and mouth irritation.
- Call a poison helpline or an emergency vet.
- Let your vet know about your dog’s breed, age, size, and weight.
- Note all the symptoms, both mild and severe. If your dog is struggling to breathe, be sure to mention it.
- Carry a sample of the plant when going to the vet.
- Check your pet if it’s struggling to breathe; that could be a sign of swelling in the pharynx. The vet will insert a tube to help your dog breathe better. Alternatively, supplemental oxygen may be given.
- Consider giving your pet anti-inflammatory and pain medication. It may help to reduce swelling and pain.
- Consider giving your pet topical ointments. IIt may also help reduce skin irritation.
If your dog or cat only ate small quantities of Philodendron, the symptoms will disappear within 12 to 24 hours.
However, the vet may still need to monitor the swelling in the airway. If your pet has severe symptoms, recovery may take a little longer, and proper medication is needed to prevent liver and kidney damage.
How To Keep Pets From Eating Your Philodendron?
Philodendron is toxic to all pets. Cats tend to be more curious than dogs and can reach higher spaces, so you need to be extra careful when attempting to keep Philodendron away from cats. If you don’t wish to let go of your Philodendron but are worried about poisoning your pets, there are some things you can do to keep your pets safe.
Keep your pets from eating your philodendron by using floating planters. You can also throw a lemon or orange peel on the soil or sprinkle cayenne pepper around the plant — cats and dogs usually dislike the scents of pepper, ground spices, citrus fruits, fresh herbs, and vinegar.
If your Philodendron is on the table, avoid placing it on a hanging table cloth that your dog can pull down.
Also, avoid placing the Philodendron on narrow shelves. If your dogs or cat knock it over, you won’t just have a mess, but your pets might chew on the Philodendron.
The Feedee Plant Hangers (available on Amazon.com), are great for hanging your Philodendrons far from your pets. The ropes are made from cotton, are durable, and can hold pots of different sizes.
How Dangerous Is It for Babies and Kids?
Philodendron can be mildly or highly dangerous for babies and kids. The spiky oxalate crystals can cause skin irritation. Other effects include vomiting, swelling around the mouth, swallowing difficulties, a hoarse voice, and sometimes, death.
Fortunately, the discomfort babies and kids experience when they touch the sap of Philodendron will keep them from ingesting it.
However, this doesn’t stop them from putting their fingers in their mouths. To be safe, thoroughly rinse your child’s hands and mouth to prevent Philodendron poisoning in kids.
Signs To Watch Out
When babies and kids come into contact with oxalate crystals in Philodendron, they’ll react to it instantly. Some symptoms will appear immediately. You’ll notice other signs of Philodendron poisoning after a little while.
Signs that your child has ingested Philodendron include:
- Burning sensation on the hands and mouth
- Swelling around the mouth, throat, and tongue
- Ulcer on the tongue
- Difficulty breathing
These are some common signs in babies and kids who have crushed or eaten Philodendron.
Treatments & Recovery
If you notice your baby has been messing with your Philodendron plant and some leaves are crushed, you must assume that your baby has ingested it. If your baby is showing signs of discomfort and irritation, you can do the following to reduce the impact of the toxic Philodendron on the skin and in the body:
- Use lots of water to clean your baby’s mouth to remove pieces of Philodendron stuck in your baby’s mouth.
- Give your lots of water or milk to drink.
- Wash your baby’s hands and eyes thoroughly with lukewarm water if your baby has rubbed their eyes using their hands.
- Remove your baby’s clothes, possibly contaminated with the Philodendron sap. Wash the baby thoroughly with water and soap.
- Call 911 or the poison control center.
- Call a doctor. The doctor may recommend topical and other medications to help flush out the poison from your child’s body.
Take the plant sample and let the doctor know how much of it your baby has consumed. Most kids recover from the poisoning after a few hours.
However, more severe symptoms, like breathing difficulties, indicate ingestion of high quantities of oxalate crystals. These take a little longer to leave the body.
How To Keep Away Children From Philodendron
The best way to prevent Philodendron poisoning is to place the plant beyond your child’s reach. You can hang your Philodendron from the ceiling, close to a window where it will still receive some sunlight.
Alternatively, place your Philodendron on the tabletop or a top-shelf. You should also train your child to stay away from house plants.