Due to how common hostas are, your dog could easily come into contact with them in a garden or on a walk. Should you be worried about this plant being poisonous?
The hosta contains a chemical substance known as saponins which are highly toxic to dogs when ingested. The entire plant – the bulb, the stem, and even the flowers – poses a danger to canines, making them sick, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
The hosta is a perennial, herbaceous, low-to-ground plant that is characterized by ribbed leaves and flowers that grow in clusters in shades of white, violet, or lavender. Hostas are often used in landscaping and are popularly used to brighten shady regions of gardens and to attract hummingbirds.
Why are Hostas Poisonous for Dogs?
The hosta is visually appealing to dogs, with long, waxy leaves that have a white coating on the underside in some species, and flowers that bloom in white, blue, or purple.
However, this plant contains a substance called saponins, which is derived from the Latin word for “soap”. This is suiting because saponin foams up when mixed with water. Although hostas don’t contain enough saponin to make soap, they contain enough of the substance to make them toxic to dogs.
If your dog eats hosta bulbs, leaves, or flowers, the saponin in the plant will stop him from vomiting, fill his stomach with foam, and constrict his intestinal tract for a while so that he is unable to expel the chemical substance from either direction. At the very least, you will notice that your dog looks frustrated, and eventually, he will vomit and/or have diarrhea.
According to some experts, the consumption of hostas by large dogs and giant breeds such as Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes can lead to bloating and twisting of the intestine that might require surgery to relieve.
How Toxic are Hostas to Dogs?
Many veterinary websites categorize the hosta plant as a mild toxin, which means that in most cases, upon ingesting it, your pooch will just get sick rather than die.
That said, hostas still pose a serious risk to canines, particularly bigger dogs, as there’s the additional risk of saponin leading to the twisting of the stomach or intestines. This is a medical emergency that can prove to be fatal to your dog if left untreated.
If your dog has consumed hostas, you must consult with your vet as soon as possible for professional advice and treatment where required.
Are All Hostas Poisonous to Dogs?
Taxonomists suggest that there are close to 45 different species of hostas. They’re used as a food source in some Asian countries but are grown in the UK and USA for ornamental purposes. Most (if not all) varieties of this plant contain the chemical substance saponin, which means you should keep your dog away from hostas regardless of the species just to be safe.
Are Variegated Hostas Poisonous to Dogs?
Variegated hostas feature distinct lighter markings on the leaves. The markings may be yellow, cream, or light green. In some cases, the markings are found on the center of the leaves; in others, on the margins, or edges. Variegated hostas are commonly used to brighten up shady areas of a landscape, and pose the same threat to dogs as other types of hostas.
Can Dogs Be Allergic to Hostas?
Hosta allergy in dogs occurs when canines ingest the hosta plant, which contains saponins that are classified as mildly toxic. In rare cases, hostas can also cause an allergic reaction when they come into contact with the skin, particularly in dogs that have thin coats.
Are Hostas Deadly to Dogs?
In isolated cases, particularly if a dog eats a large hosta plant, the saponin can prove to be fatal, especially if your canine has underlying conditions. The consumption of hostas also has a higher fatality risk in bigger dogs due to the increased likelihood of the intestines twisting.
Can Dogs Get Sick From Eating Hostas?
Your dog is at risk of getting poisoned if he consumes any part of the hosta plant. Some of the most common symptoms of poisoning to keep an eye out for include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Entangling of intestines
Different dogs may exhibit varying symptoms, but in general, you can assume that if your dog shows any symptoms of having an upset stomach after consuming hostas, he may be experiencing a reaction to the saponin in the plant.
Can Hostas Cause Seizures in Dogs?
Hostas are not known to cause seizures in dogs. That said, canines may exhibit different symptoms when they consume hostas, particularly if they have underlying conditions – seizures and convulsions may be among these isolated symptoms.
Are Hostas Edible for Dogs?
Hostas should not be used for consumption by dogs because they are considered to be mildly toxic, with potentially serious outcomes.
Why Do Dogs Eat Hostas?
Your dog may be drawn to the color or flavor of hostas, or he may be trying to relieve his gastrointestinal distress by inducing vomiting – this is the same reason why many dogs eat grass.
Whatever the case, there are several tactics that you can use to try and get your dog to keep away from hostas:
- One tactic you can employ is the good old reinforcement training. Get your dog’s attention by shouting “No!” and when he listens and turns away, immediately praise and reward his effort with his favorite treat.
- You can also reinforce through clicker training –use a small noisemaker of your choice for increased efficiency. When your dog makes the motion to eat a hosta, press the clicker and praise and/or reward him when he moves away.
- Another reinforcement training technique involves installing motion-sensitive repellent that will flash light and emit an alarm when your pooch tries to eat your hostas.
If your dog isn’t keen on reinforcement training, you can try more traditional tactics like spraying your hostas with lime juice. Dogs are repelled by both the taste and smell of citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and grapefruit.
Another tactic that might work for you involves fencing off your hostas to keep your dog away. If this doesn’t fit your aesthetic, you can try creating a makeshift “garden moat” filled with pine cones to discourage your dog.
What Happens If My Dog Eats a Hosta Plant?
If your dog consumes a hosta plant and shows signs of poisoning, inform your veterinarian immediately. After your vet determines that your dog has saponin poisoning, he/she will recommend the most suitable treatment. Treatment methods may include:
If your dog is yet to vomit on his own after consuming hostas, your vet will perform a procedure known as emesis to help your dog get rid of the saponins. The vet will then administer activated charcoal, which is effective at absorbing any lingering toxins that may have made their way into your dog’s system.
When you take your dog to the vet for treatment, one of the first things they will do is to wash and rinse your pooch’s coat, face, eyes, and skin to get rid of any residual sap. Your vet may also need to flush out his eyes and mouth repeatedly with water to get rid of the saponin toxin entirely.
Intravenous (IV) Fluids
To reduce the risk of dehydration, you (or your vet) may provide your dog with IV fluids. These fluids are essential in restoring any imbalances in your dog’s system, promoting kidney function, and maintain proper levels of electrolytes. If your dog suffers from an allergic reaction as a result of ingesting saponin, the fluids may be combined with an antihistamine to provide relief.
If your vet finds that the saponins have already caused your dog’s intestines to twist, he/she will likely perform surgery, as this is a medical emergency that could prove to be fatal if not remedied.
Another treatment option that your vet may choose involves keeping your dog in the hospital overnight for a couple of days to monitor his condition, even if the symptoms of poisoning have diminished. A vet may do this to monitor the function of organs such as kidneys, as well as to take blood work to track your dog’s progress.
Common Outdoor Plants That are Poisonous to Dogs
Many plants that you can find in your backyard are poisonous to dogs. They range from being only mildly toxic to causing serious canine health problems. The following list of plants that are toxic to dogs is not exhaustive and is only intended to serve as a guide.
- Morning glory
- English ivy
- Oriental bittersweet
- Boston ivy
Cold-hardy Perennial Flowers
- Bleeding hearts
- Lenten rose
- Yew bushes
- Mountain laurel
- Rose of Sharon
- Japanese andromeda
- Oak trees (leaves and acorns are poisonous to dogs)
- Golden chain
- American holly
- Yellow bird of paradise
- Aloe vera
- Snake lily
- Castor bean
- Angel’s trumpet
- Elephant ears
- Bird of paradise
Weeds and Other Wild Plants
- Bittersweet nightshade
- Yellow dock
- Creeping Charlie
Common House Plants Not Toxic to Dogs
It can be difficult to keep your dog from a house plant, especially if he is determined to chew. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure that the plants you grow in your home are safe and non-toxic to your animal friends.
Here are plants that are recognized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) as being non-toxic to dogs as well as cats.
- Spider plant
- Venus flytrap
- African violet
- Friendship plant
- Baby tears
- Boston fern
- Polka dot plant
- Mosaic plant
- Purple waffle plant
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