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NOT RECOMMENDED (for dogs): Azaleas

For those with pets who have gone through this before or for those who are proactively searching for potential problems, I can appreciate a "duh!" response but if we did it, others may as well.


The wonderful spring and summer and many people look to improving their outdoor landscaping.  After going through a lot of deck work, we wanted to add a shrub to our garden. From the local gardening store, we picked a shrub thinking it would be a good addition - an azalea.

Our dog loves to play in the backyard and every now and then may nip at some grass. A week after planting the bush, he had a bad day. We came home and found he had thrown up a fair bit (and the other way as well). As long-time dog owners, we thought "ok, he may have eaten something , we'll see how it goes". His attitude was great and didn't seem that distressed by it.

The NEXT night, however, was a different story. His attitude was great coming home but overnight the vomiting started and then got worse. Two hours later, he was discharging brown blood and his legs started to tremble.

Our next stop was the closest emergency vet (it was 2am)- we then had to go to another one, Alta Vista Animal Hospital one that we had used before (long story).

His sugar level had dropped to a dangerously low level and was kept for two nights for monitoring. The diagnosis was varying --- since we didn't know what could have changed (we hadn't thought of the bush). Vets often err on the side of caution - it could be a new allergy, it could be cancer. While our dog is prone to allergies, nothing made a huge amount of sense. Since he had just had a regular check-up two months earlier, we would have thought some of those ideas would have shown themselves earlier.  Still we didn't think of the bush.

While he was being monitored at the vet, my wife thought of the bush. We did some research and all of the symptoms matched. Our dog would routinely walk over around that area and since we knew he would pick at grass, it was plausible that he had eaten a flower from the bush or the leaves had fallen during some recent pruning. The azalea was immediately dug up and out of the garden. Azaleas are extremely toxic to dogs - and if not caught early enough, can bring on a coma or even death.

We were lucky - even with our older dog, we were able to put him on a regiment to get him back to normal. The vets still have him on a possible list for other causes but seeing how he's bounced back, we're pretty sure of the cause.

Now- if you look for poisonous plants, the azalea is often grouped with the rhodedendron, which makes it hard to find on toxic lists.

Considering how many people have pets, it would be something that garden centres should consider - noting potential effects of plants. flowers and bushes on pets. If we had known in advance, we never would have even thought about it.

Obviously, we'll be more cautious in the future - a rock garden is a pretty safe bet, if extreme. We're just happy to have our little guy getting better.

Here's a good list from the ASPCA.

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