One of the joys of summer is enjoying some fresh air in the garden, taking in the sights and scents of the flowers. Our dogs are fond of the garden too! Being outside isn’t just for walks, but is exploring in the garden safe for your dog?
Dogs are naturally inquisitive and use their mouths to explore textures and smells they find intriguing. Just like tulips and roses, lilacs are strongly scented. This means they may be attractive to your canine companion.
If you find your lilac plant has been nibbled by your canine friend, you might have some questions: Is a lilac bush poisonous to my dog? If my dog ate lilacs, what should I do? Will my dog be OK if he ate lilac? Well, let’s jump in and find out!
Are Lilac Plants Toxic To Dogs?
The excellent news is that lilacs are not toxic (poisonous) to dogs. Lilac flowers, stems, and leaves will not cause a toxic reaction if eaten and are not likely to cause any kind of skin reaction. However, many flowers are unsafe for dogs, so owners must always be cautious.
The Latin name for lilacs is syringa. They grow as bushes and trees. Lilacs are members of the olive family, and their flowers are safe enough to be eaten by humans!
If your pup has nibbled a plant and you’re not sure what it is, or you think it might be toxic, then call your veterinarian straight away. If your dog has eaten lilac, and you’re confident it is lilac, then you can be a bit more relaxed, but do keep an eye on them for signs of an upset tummy.
Lilacs Aren’t Toxic, But Chinaberries Are
You may have heard that lilacs are toxic for our canine companions, but this is not true. It is likely the rumor started because the chinaberry—sometimes called the “Syringa berry tree”, or “Persian lilac”—is toxic. Lilacs are not in the same family of plants as the chinaberry. Lilacs are safe for dogs. Chinaberry is not safe for dogs and is unsuitable for a dog-friendly garden.
Chinaberry toxicity can be serious, causing vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and dullness. In severe cases, dogs can have seizures (fits) after eating chinaberry. The berry is the most toxic part of the plant for dogs. Dogs will eat berries—they like fruit—so keep your pup away from chinaberry trees and contact your veterinarian immediately if any part of the plant has been ingested.
Goats’ roe (Latin name Galega officinalis) is also known as “French lilac.” Colorado State University’s Guide to Poisonous Plants explains that while this plant is uncommon, it is toxic. It grows in northern Utah and has caused death in sheep. Luckily, you are unlikely to find it in your garden. Even if you did, your pup probably wouldn’t eat it. Sheep only eat it when they are hungry, and there is no alternative forage available.
Dangers of Lilac Consumption In Dogs
If Fido found his way into the garden and ate some Lilacs, there are a few dangers you’ll want to make sure you watch for. While most of these issues aren’t life-threatening, overconsumption of Lilac plants could cause some of the issues below to occur.
While non-toxic, lilacs can cause tummy upsets in dogs. Eating too much of any plant material can irritate your dog’s gut. This might cause them to vomit or have loose poos. Some dogs are more sensitive than others, but it is best to supervise your pup when in the garden and stop him from eating plants. You may mistakenly identify a plant, and some plants are toxic—so better safe than sorry!
Never spray chemical pesticides or other treatments on lilacs or other plants in your garden if you have a dog. These can be dangerous for dogs. Keep Fido away from plants in public gardens just in case they have been sprayed.
Lilac Stems Or Leaves
Lilac stems, or leaves could tickle your dog’s throat, causing him to cough or sneeze. This is unlikely to be serious and would probably go away within minutes. If you notice coughing or sneezing after eating lilacs, get your pup checked over by your veterinarian, just in case something is stuck in his throat.
Fresh, green stems and leaves are hard for dogs’ guts to break down. They could (if a lot were eaten) block a dog’s gut, causing an obstruction. A dog with a gut obstruction will vomit, not want to eat, and be quiet or dull. If you notice these signs, see your veterinarian urgently. An obstruction from eating lilac plants is unlikely but not impossible.
Dogs can have allergic reactions to anything. If your dog eats a lilac and then drools, or their face starts to swell, then they may be experiencing an allergic reaction. This can go away within minutes, but dogs can have quite strong reactions.
Allergic reactions may cause your pup to become dull, vomit, and have trouble breathing. If you think your dog is having an allergic reaction, contact your veterinarian straight away.
My Dog Ate Lilacs: What Now?
Don’t panic! Luckily, lilacs are not toxic, and your pup will, most likely, be fine. Do check that the plant is lilac. If you have any doubt and the plant could be toxic, then call your veterinarian or an animal poisons helpline:
- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Pet Poison Helpline is a 24/7, licensed pet poison advice service.
Please note calling these numbers incurs a charge and may not be any cheaper than calling your veterinarian. They are brilliant resources for advice but should not replace veterinary care for a sick pet.
Move your dog away from the lilac to stop him from eating any more of the plant—while not toxic, lilacs can upset dogs’ tummies. If you notice drooling, swelling up, or acting strange behavior after eating lilac, it may be an allergic reaction. Call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic for advice.
If your dog vomits or has diarrhea after eating lilac, this will usually resolve itself within a day and without further treatment. You can monitor at home if they are bright, behaving normally, and eating/drinking. If you have any concerns or the symptoms continue for more than 24 hours, always play safe and seek advice from your vet.
I asked veterinarian Dr. Lizzie Youens whether she’d treated any dogs who had eaten lilac.
“Dogs – especially puppies – are curious and playful, and may often eat things when out and about. At the vets, we often get calls from pet owners who are worried about their dog eating plants. Whilst lilac is not toxic, and any resulting tummy upset should resolve fairly quickly, we’re always happy to give advice to concerned pet owners. Some garden plants can be very toxic, so in my experience it’s always best to call the experts if you’re unsure what to do!”Veterinarian Dr. Lizzie Youens
Plants That Look Like Lilacs And Dogs
Buddleia plants look a bit like lilac and are popular garden plants as they attract butterflies. Buddleia, as with lilac, is non-toxic for dogs, but avoid letting your pup have a nibble in case it causes a tummy upset.
Delphinium plants can be mistaken for lilacs—their flowers are a similar color to purple. Delphinium is toxic to both dogs and other animals, causing illness if enough is eaten. Avoid growing delphinium in your garden to keep it dog-safe. If you think your pup has eaten delphinium, call your veterinarian.
Preventing Lilac Ingestion
Lilac is a good choice of plant for your garden if you have a dog—it is relatively safe to eat. Even if your dog does have an upset tummy after eating lilac, it would probably be mild and short-lived.
That said, it is best not to let your pup gorge on lilacs. So how can you stop your furry friend from eating them?
- The best way to prevent plant ingestion is to be with them, supervising them at all times.
- Putting up netting around flower beds can stop your dog from getting to flowers.
- It will also allow you to see and smell the flowers in full bloom, so it’s a win-win!
- Provide canine companion with things he can investigate in the garden.
- This could be toys, somewhere to dig, or a dog-safe chew toy to gnaw on.
- Provide safe, pesticide-free grass for your pup to graze.
- Yes, dogs often like to eat grass, so provide something to satisfy this urge.
- Consider including some fresh fruit or vegetables in your pup’s diet.
Will my dog be OK if he ate lilac?
Yes, most probably, he will be fine with no side effects. He may get a mild tummy upset, but this will probably resolve quickly with no long-term problems. In rare cases, dogs may have an allergic reaction or a more serious tummy upset, but this is unlikely.
Which flowers are poisonous to dogs?
The ASPCA provides a comprehensive list of plants that are toxic to dogs.
What flowers are safe to grow in my garden?
The ASPCA provides a list of non-toxic plants that are safe for gardens with dogs.
How can I stop my dog from eating plants?
Supervise your dog around plants, put up fencing and netting, and provide distractions like dog toys to keep your dog from eating plants.
Dogs like to eat plants—they are omnivores like us, so they can eat a variety of plants and meats. Having these in their diet can help stop them from nibbling on your garden plants. 90% of your dog’s diet should be a complete, balanced dog food—10% can be made up of healthy extras like fruit and vegetables.
Be sure to avoid toxic fruit and veg (onions, leeks, chives, and grapes are toxic to dogs). If you are unsure if a food is safe to feed your dog or if there are specific medical needs that mean he shouldn’t be given new foods, then check with your veterinarian first. And lastly, always remember to introduce new foods gradually.