Florida’s Flora and Fauna – Are you keeping Fido safe?

Florida’s Flora and Fauna: Golden Owners Beware

Whether you’re new to Florida or a longtime resident, think “Safety First” when it comes to your cherished golden companions. Not only should you be wary of certain trees, plants and flowers that are native to the state but those in your own garden. While the list below simply points the way, it’s a paw-fect place to start:

Cycads – Included in this notorious group is the Sago Palm, Cardboard Palm and Florida Arrowroot, all of them extremely poisonous to both humans and animals. A single seed from a Sago Palm, for example, can kill a medium-sized dog.

Aroids – Also called arums, this famous family includes philodendron, pothos, peace lily (Spathiphyllum), arrowhead plants (Syngonium), elephant ear (Caladium), Dieffenbachia and common Lantana camara. Containing crystals of calcium carbonate called raphides that form microscopic needles, they can cause discomfort and irritation to your dog’s lips, mouth and throat if consumed in small quantities.

Azaleas – As dazzling as they are dangerous, azaleas are also terrifyingly toxic.

Angel Trumpet – Although every part of this “heavenly” named plant is toxic, the seeds are the most lethal part. They can lead to paralysis in a dog and, on occasion, to death.

Oleander – A lush shrub that comes in an array of cheerful colors, it’s sadly most notable for its toxicity. Every part of it contains traces of two potent cardiac glycosides (oleandrin and neriine), and according to legend, its name is a Latinized form of Greek for the phrase, “I kill.”  The smoke from burning this shrub is also toxic.

Lilies – Every variety, from the elegant Easter lily and Calla lily to the Peace lily, is highly poisonous. Ingesting the pollen alone can potentially kill your dog.

Foxglove – Boasting stalks of bells in a variety of purple shades, this annual is quite toxic, causing severe nausea and vomiting in dogs.

Kalanchoe – A genus of approximately 125 species of tropical, succulent flowering plants, they may be lusciously colored but they also contain cardiac toxins which, when ingested by dogs, cause gastrointestinal irritation, stomach upset and vomiting.

Euphorbias – While this family of plants is commonly found in gardens, some, including the poinsettia, croton and crown of thorns, exude an irritating whitish latex sap when cut that can prove toxic to dogs.

Abrus precatorius – Another family of pretty plants found in gardens include the Castor bean (Ricinus communis) and rosary pea, both potentially fatal for dogs.

Asclepias – In this family, milkweed, one of its best known plants, has a milky sap containing toxins called cardiac glycosides that are toxic to dogs if consumed in large quantities.

Below are some of the myriad species of “animals” – be it in the wild, the water or your own backyard – that pose potentially lethal threats to your golden.

Cane Toads – Also known as bufo toads, they are exceedingly dangerous, not because of their bite or sting but because of the toxin in their skin. A single lick from your dog and he can be dead within minutes. Should your dog engage with one of these toads, immediately flush the affected area with running water for about 15 minutes (try to ensure he doesn’t swallow any), then call your vet.

Colorado River Toads – Similar to cane toads, they secrete a white ooze behind their eyes that’s highly toxic and can cause permanent neurological damage when ingested. Again, flush the affected area with running water while taking care to avoid pushing the toxin to the back of your dog’s throat, then call your vet.

Geckos and Skinks – Many different types of geckos and skinks carry a parasitic liver fluke that can cause excruciatingly painful intestinal issues in dogs.

Coral Snakes – Elusive, burrowing, red-and-yellow snakes, they’re among the most poisonous, possessing a powerful neurotoxin that can cause respiratory failure over a period of 18 hour.

Water Moccasins (Cottonmouths) – Typically brown, black or yellow, they forage primarily after dark, and live near swamps, streams, creeks and lakes. If your dog is bitten, serious symptoms can develop within an hour while fatal symptoms can appear in less than 24 hours.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes – Named for the unique pattern on their backs, these massive snakes can strike up to two-thirds of their body length (several feet), live in pine flatwoods, and don’t necessarily rattle before striking.

Eastern Timber Rattlesnakes – With a reddish-brown stripe down their backs, these large snakes camouflage well, blending into their usual habit — pine flatwoods.

Pigmy Rattlesnakes – These small, thick, venomous snakes, living in lowland prairies and along the borders of freshwater ponds, lakes and swamps, have a rattle that sounds like a quiet, buzzing insect.

Copperheads – Usually a brownish tan, their bite is painful but less life threatening than rattlesnakes, and although they may “dry bite” your dog without injecting any venom, seek immediate medical attention anyway.

American Crocodile and American Alligator – These living reminders of prehistoric times ALWAYS pose a danger – to you and your dog. Keep your distance!

Box Jellyfish – Along with lion’s mane and man-of-war jellyfish, their sting can make your dog violently ill. Never let your dog “play” with them on the beach, even if they appear to be dead.

Fire Ants – These fearsome insects, famously fond of pet food, will not only crawl across your dog’s skin they’ll sting him.

Ticks – With Lyme disease a threat all year round, there are six species of ticks in Florida and all of them are dangerous for dogs!

Widow Spiders – Whether black, brown or red, these sinister spiders’ bites can lead to seizures, paralysis and even death.

Recluse Spiders – These brown spiders’ necrotic venom degrades tissue and will cause blister-like, growing bites on your dog’s skin.  Others to avoid — the Mediterranean recluse spider and the deadlier Chilean recluse spider.

Stinging Caterpillars – With names like buck moth, puss caterpillar, flannel moth, saddleback, spiny oak-slug, hag caterpillar and tussock moth, they all have venomous spines that can hurt your dog’s mouth or nose.

By no means a complete list of the plant and animal life that can threaten your beloved golden’s life, hopefully this is a paw step in the right – and safe – direction.


Article by Nomi Berger


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