Are Azaleas Poisonous to Pets?

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Close-up of pink azaleas
Close-up of pink azaleas (Image: JillLang/iStock/Getty Images)

According to the Azalea Society of America, all parts of the azalea plant -- including its honey -- are toxic to wild animals and pets. However, the level of toxicity may vary based on the size, age, species and overall health of the animals who come in contact with and ingest the plant.

Azalea Toxicity

According to the ASPCA, the azalea, part of the rhododendron family, isn’t very tasty, so pets such as horses usually only eat it if no other foliage is available. Pet goats, however, don’t seem to mind the taste and may be attracted to the plant. Pets who chew on or eat the leaves, the honey or the flowering portion of the plant are susceptible to muscular, nerve and cardiac problems due to the plant’s toxicity.

Pet Susceptibility

Your pet’s weight and health play a role in how severely azalea poisoning occurs. According to the Azalea Society of America, even as little as 0.2 percent of an animal’s body weight in azalea consumption can lead to a toxic reaction. For example, a young kitten who eats a single azalea leaf is far more likely to have a bad reaction than an adult horse who eats an entire plant. Elderly, weak pets are more likely to experience problems than young healthy animals; pets with compromised health may have a tougher time handling the toxins.

Signs of Poisoning

According to the ASPCA, signs of azalea poisoning typically occur within a few hours of plant ingestion. Your pet may exhibit diarrhea, decreased appetite, weakness, uncoordinated movement and slow or erratic heart rate. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, other signs to watch for include tremors, seizures or transient blindness. If you suspect your pet has ingested any part of the azalea, try to assess how much has been consumed and seek immediate medical attention.

Poisoning Prevention

If you have pets such as dogs, cats or rabbits who are ever outside, avoid planting azaleas in your garden or around your home to avoid unintentional poisoning. According to Reader’s Digest, if you have a pet-free home but are concerned about this plant’s toxicity to wildlife or neighboring pets, make your garden unattractive to animals. Put up a fence or use an animal deterrent spray to steer animals away. Coffee grounds, moth balls and vinegar are other natural remedies you can use to decrease animal traffic in your yard and garden.

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