Flowers of common hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) open and add fragrance to a garden when little else blooms. Hyacinth bulbs, which are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, produce the variously colored flowers and spearlike foliage, known as scapes, that emerge in April. If you have curious pets or unruly livestock, however, take care with hyacinths, especially when storing and planting the bulbs. If you see evidence that an animal ate hyacinths or an animal exhibits specific symptoms associated with hyacinth poisoning, then seek veterinary treatment for that animal immediately.
Hyacinth bulbs are the plant part most toxic to animals. The bulbs contain alkaloids that can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to serious. Also, some problems have been associated with ingestion of above-ground portions of hyacinths during the growing season. Those symptoms are milder, however, because hyacinth flowers, foliage and stems contain the toxic alkaloids in less concentrated amounts.
Severe cases of hyacinth poisoning often occurs in dogs that dug up just-planted bulbs or found a big bag of the bulbs, according to the Pet Poison Helpline's website. Besides dogs, horses and cats are susceptible to hyacinth poisoning, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Prevent other animals, especially cattle and pigs, from accessing hyacinth bulbs, too.
Symptoms of Poisoning
Signs that an animal was poisoned by eating hyacinth include intestinal distress, such as diarrhea and/or stool with blood, as well as vomiting or the appearance of nausea. Drooling and panting also are associated with hyacinth poisoning. Additionally, trembling and general fatigue or low spirits can signal hyacinth ingestion. Your veterinarian can detect other common symptoms, which may include increased heart rate and increased respiratory rate. Along with those symptoms, a poisoned animal may have skin problems or minor stomach upset if it ate a small amount of hyacinth bulbs, leaves, stems or flowers.
Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) is non-toxic to dogs and cats and makes a suitable alternative to common hyacinth. Like common hyacinth, grape hyacinth is a bulb plant that blooms in early spring and features scape foliage and fragrant blooms. Grape hyacinth's blooms are bluish-purple and appear on low-growing stems. Also like common hyacinth, grape hyacinth is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8. Grape hyacinth has the additional advantage of being more versatile than common hyacinth. While the latter grows well only when exposed to full sun, grape hyacinth thrives in a site that receives full sun to partial shade and is used in both cutting and ornamental gardens.
- University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Library: Hyacinth -- Plants Toxic to Animals
- Pet Poison Helpline: Tulips and Hyacinths
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Hyacinth
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Grape Hyacinth
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Hyacinthus Orientalis
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Muscari Armeniacum
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