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Is Lily Of The Valley Poisonous To Dogs? What Should I Do If My Dog Eats It?

Last Updated: October 6, 2023 | 6 min read | Leave a Comment

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As pet parents, we always want to keep our dogs safe, especially in their own homes and gardens. Many plants are safe and pet friendly, but some are a danger for our four-legged friends, and it’s really important to know which ones to avoid and what to do if your dog gets their paws on them.

Lilies are beautiful plants with lovely flowers and strong scents, so they are commonly found in the garden. They are also the birth flower for babies born in the month of May. But what do you do if your dog has eaten some of your lily of the valley?

Unfortunately, lilies are poisonous to dogs, including Lily of the Valley. So, let’s dive in to find out what you need to do next and what makes these plants so dangerous for our pets.

What Is Lily Of The Valley?

Lily of the Valley, despite its name, is not actually a true lily. It is a perennial flowering plant with tiny bell-shaped flowers with a delicious, sweet scent. They grow to around two feet tall and spread underground, growing from bulbs.

The Lily of the Valley can be found in Asia, Europe, and North America. In the U.S., it tends to grow mostly in the Eastern parts, with the states of Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Vermont having some of the largest numbers. Lily of the Valley is a popular garden plant due to its appearance and scent.

The most common Lily of the Valley species in the USA are:

  • C. majalis Albostriata
  • C. majalis Berlin Giant
  • C. majalis Flore Pleno
  • C. majalis Green Tapestry
  • C. majalis Rosea

Why Is Lily Of The Valley Poisonous To Dogs?

Lily of the Valley up close
The highest concentration of lethal cardiac glycosides is found in the bulbs. 

Lily of the Valley is highly poisonous to dogs as it contains 38 cardiac glycosides – organic compounds that cause the heart to lower its rate of contraction and increase the force of its output. These effects on the heart are very dangerous, but the glycosides can also irritate the digestive tract. The whole plant is poisonous, including the leaves, stem, and flowers, but the bulbs are the most dangerous part.

Lily of the Valley also contains saponins, another dangerous compound found in plants that are toxic to dogs. Saponins usually affect your dog’s digestive system, causing irritation that leads to vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Saponins can also cause skin irritation.

Symptoms Of Lily Of The Valley Poisoning In Dogs

The symptoms of Lily of the Valley poisoning tend to start very quickly after ingestion, usually within the first two hours. However, symptoms can appear at any time within 24 hours, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your dog. The symptoms can also vary depending on the amount and which part of the plant or flower your dog has eaten. The onset of symptoms could be faster or more severe if your dog has eaten the bulb.

Common symptoms of Lily of the Valley poisoning in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weakness and abnormal gait
  • Trembling
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abnormal heart rate (can be fast or slow) and abnormal heart rhythm
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

If your dog has eaten any part of a Lily of the Valley plant, or you suspect they have, then you need to contact your vet right away, as prompt treatment is key to a good recovery.

My Dog Ate A Lily Of The Valley – What Should I Do? 

If you suspect that your dog might have eaten any part of a Lily of the Valley plant, you need to get them down to the vet immediately. Your pup’s recovery depends on how quickly they are treated, as well as how much of the plant they have eaten. The whole plant is poisonous, but eating a Lily of the Valley bulb is particularly dangerous as, left untreated, can cause death within only a couple of hours. 

How Is Lily Of The Valley Poisoning Diagnosed?

Lily of the Valley poisoning is usually diagnosed based on a history of eating the plant or part of the plant and the presence of symptoms. It’s always helpful if you can show the vet some of the plant, and it’s really important to tell the vet how much and which part of the plant your pup has eaten. The vet will ask lots of questions about your dog’s symptoms and perform a thorough examination.

The vet will want to check your dog’s heart, as this is the main organ affected by the toxins in Lily of the Valley. They will check your dog’s heart rate and listen for any unusual rhythms (arrhythmias). It’s also important for the vet to check your dog’s blood pressure, temperature, and breathing.

Blood tests might be run, and sometimes the vet will want to carry out x-rays or an ultrasound to make sure they know what treatment your dog needs. There are specific blood tests available to look for the cardiac glycosides that are found in Lily of the Valley, however, they are very expensive and not always reliable.

How Is Lily Of The Valley Poisoning Treated?

Often when dogs eat things they shouldn’t, the vet can give an injection to make them sick to avoid the toxin being absorbed from the stomach. However, with Lily of the Valley, this is not recommended because the toxins are absorbed so quickly after ingestion.

Sometimes it can be useful to clear the stomach using a gastric lavage (washing out the stomach under a general anesthetic) to make sure there are no toxins left, and then activated charcoal is given to absorb the toxins. 

Treatment is mostly supportive, and your dog will be hospitalized at the vet probably for a few days. Supportive treatment includes a fluid drip to help with rehydration and correcting electrolyte imbalances, as well as anti-sickness medication, gastro protectants, and oxygen. If your dog’s heart has been affected by the poison, they might need medication such as lidocaine or atropine to treat arrhythmias and help get the heart back to normal. The vets will carry out regular blood and urine tests to check on your pet’s progress. 

Will My Dog Be Okay If They Ate Lily Of The Valley? 

The prognosis for dogs who have eaten Lily of the Valley depends very much on how much of the plant they ate and how quickly they were treated. Generally, you can expect your dog to be home and back to normal after a few days of treatment, as long as they are treated within the first couple of hours after ingestion of the plant.

But your dog will need some essential TLC when they get home from the vet, with a calm, quiet space to rest away from any disturbances. Your dog might need to stay on some medication when they get home and will need to have a couple of follow-up visits with the vet to make sure they are continuing to make a full recovery.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Eating Lily Of The Valley? 

Dog sitting in a field of Lily of the Valley
Always keep a close eye on your pup in the garden.

So how can you stop your pup from getting their paws on your plants? Although many plants in our houses are safe and pet-friendly, some are harmful, so it’s always best not to encourage them to chew on plants as they can’t tell the difference between safe and poisonous.

If your pup has a habit of tearing up your flower beds, you’re probably wondering why. Usually, this behavior is triggered by boredom, a lack of exercise, or simply just a way of trying to get your attention. You need to make sure that your dog is getting plenty of daily exercise and that they have enough toys and stimulation. If it’s just a naughty habit for your pup, then a bit of training can really help. 

If you spot your pup sniffing around the plants or starting to eat one, call them away and reward them. Offer a high-quality reward like a homemade dog treat every time they head to the flower bed to reinforce positive behavior. Fencing off parts of the garden, especially when pups are young and exploring the world with their mouths, can be helpful too. 

Final Thoughts

Lily of the Valley is a beautiful plant to look at, with a delightful, sweet smell. But it is highly toxic to dogs, so it’s best to avoid growing it in your garden or keep it out of reach if you are a pet parent. Lily of the Valley contains cardiac glycosides, which can have serious and life-threatening effects on your dog’s heart and digestive tract.

If your dog has eaten Lily of the Valley, you need to get your pet seen at the vet as soon as possible, as prompt treatment is key to a good recovery. Most dogs recover well within a few days, but it’s always safest to discourage your furry friend from getting their paws on your plants with a few simple training techniques.

Dog holding Dahlia flower in mouth laying in the grass.

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