Does your pup tend to get out into the garden and start eating all sorts of plants they shouldn’t be? Dog-safe plants like Dandelions may not be cause for concern, but what about when your dog decides to eat some Tulips you recently planted?
Tulips (Tulipa species) are a popular ornamental plant, beloved for their cheerful springtime blooms. Unfortunately, tulips are toxic to dogs. Flowering season typically extends from March to May. However, your pup is more likely to eat tulips in Autumn when the bulbs are freshly planted in the garden.
You should always call your veterinarian right away after tulips have been consumed. But depending on how many were eaten, there are some different steps you’ll likely need to take. Let’s take a look at how poisonous tulips are, and what your next steps will be.
Are Tulips Poisonous To Dogs?
Tulips are poisonous to dogs, but their toxic effects are considered mild compared to other ornamental plants such as the oleander (Nerium oleander), foxglove (Digitalis species), or lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis).
Tulips contain toxic glycosides known as tulipalin A, tulipalin B, and tuliposide A. These toxins cause direct irritation to the mouth and gut when chewed or swallowed, leading to signs like drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In nature, these chemicals are designed to deter fungal infections from the tulip plant.
Tulips are not the only springtime bulb to be poisonous to dogs. In fact, all spring bulbs should be considered poisonous, including:
In addition, Autumn crocuses are similar to spring crocuses but are a different species whose flowers appear in the autumn. They are extremely toxic.
Which Parts Of The Tulip Are Toxic?
The toxic chemicals are most highly concentrated in the bulb of the tulip. This means tulip bulbs are the most poisonous part of the tulip plant. However, the leaves, stems, and flowers also contain low levels of toxins that may affect dogs.
Dogs that eat large amounts of tulips, particularly the bulbs, may experience more severe clinical signs (symptoms) such as an abnormally fast heart rate (tachycardia). On the other hand, a dog that nibbles a tulip flower or is found chewing on a leaf in spring is much less likely to have symptoms.
What Happens After Tulip Consumption?
In most cases, the effects of tulip toxicity are mild causing vomiting and diarrhea that resolves on its own or improves with supportive treatment. However, this will vary with the amount of tulip consumed. Especially if the bulbs are eaten. If your pup has eaten tulips, it is always best to seek veterinary advice as the toxic effects aren’t always predictable.
The most common signs associated with tulip poisoning in dogs are:
- Increased drooling (hypersalivation)
- Increased heart rate (tachycardia): Severe Cases
- Increased respiratory rate (tachypnoea): Severe Cases
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea): Severe Cases
Small dogs and puppies are also more likely to be vulnerable to the toxic effects of tulips. Their small size means they’ll become dehydrated and hypoglycemic (low blood sugar levels) much more quickly from vomiting and diarrhea. It also makes them more vulnerable to a gut blockage (intestinal obstruction) if a larger piece of bulb or part of a plastic plant pot is swallowed.
If you are concerned your pup may have swallowed large pieces of bulb or has chewed up a pot or any other non-edible material, seek urgent veterinary advice. If this material forms a blockage (obstruction) in the gut it can be fatal if not treated quickly.
Signs of intestinal obstruction include vomiting (usually multiple times), struggling to pass feces, poor appetite, difficulty keeping down food or water, and diarrhea. Sharp pieces of plastic when chewed up can also injure your dog’s mouth. They are also a choking hazard.
My Dog Just Ate Tulips, What Now?
Step 1: Examine Your Dog
First, look Fido over. It’s uncommon for a dog to become seriously ill after eating tulips. But, it’s worth examining their overall condition before you do anything else.
If your dog has collapsed, is having difficulty breathing, or appears to be severely unwell in any way, it’s best to take them immediately to the nearest emergency vet. If they are bright and comfortable check for signs like drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea. You’ll want to report these to your vet.
Step 2: Remove Tulips & Secure Your Dog
Clean up all remaining traces of tulip. Make sure they can’t be accessed by any animals at home. It can be helpful to confine your pets indoors or to another room temporarily while you clean the mess and place any unplanted bulbs out of reach.
While you do this, see if you can figure out how much of the tulip plant might have been eaten. If you planted a packet of bulbs and your pup dug them up or helped themselves directly from the bag, try and do a quick count or estimate of what’s missing.
Remember to wear gloves when handling tulip bulbs. The toxins can also be irritating fur human hands, causing a skin condition known as ‘tulip fingers’.
Step 3: Immediately Call Your Veterinarian
Your vet will use the information you’ve gathered to determine the risk and severity of tulip poisoning. They will ask for your dog’s breed, age, weight if any symptoms are present. They will also ask about any underlying health conditions or current medication.
Your veterinarian will then advise you to either monitor your pup closely at home or come into the clinic for examination and treatment if required. If you are unable to reach your veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline can also be contacted in an emergency and is available 24/7.
How is Tulip Toxicity Treated
Diagnosis of tulip toxicity is usually based on the history of having access to tulips or finding your dog digging up or eating tulips and showing the typical signs of poisoning.
There is no specific test for tulip toxicity, but your vet may perform x-rays or an ultrasound examination if they are concerned about an intestinal obstruction. Blood tests may also be performed to check electrolyte levels and to assess the severity of dogs with more serious symptoms and monitor their progress.
Your veterinarian will recommend treatment based on the amount of tulip eaten and their current symptoms, after examination. In most cases, treatment is ‘supportive’. This means there’s no antidote to tulip poisoning, but your vet will give medication to help manage the symptoms of tulip toxicity. This may include medications to help prevent further vomiting or diarrhea and those to protect the gut.
If your vet is concerned about dehydration or shock, they will recommend that Fido stays in the hospital on a drip (intravenous fluids), which also allows them to monitor them closely. Your vet may also recommend feeding a gastrointestinal diet for the next few days to help settle the stomach before returning to their regular food.
If large amounts of tulip bulbs were consumed and there are no signs of toxicity, your veterinarian may attempt to make your pup vomit (only if it’s safe). This should only ever be attempted by a veterinary professional. They will talk through risks of doing this with you.
Home remedies for making dogs vomit can actually cause further irritation to the stomach (that’s how they work) which could make things worse!
Will My Dog Be OK?
Tulip poisoning is generally mild. Most dogs will recover well with supportive care, although they may need hospitalization for a couple of days. Those dogs that progress to shock have a poorer prognosis, depending on the level of organ damage they sustain. If large pieces of bulb have been eaten, a bowel obstruction can occur, which can be fatal without surgery.
Despite the often-mild nature of tulip toxicity in dogs, it’s worth discussing your dog’s individual case with your veterinarian. Your vet will be best placed to make a decision on thier risk and any necessary treatment.
Preventing Tulip Consumption
Prevention is always better than cure, and pet owners should consider pet-friendly alternatives for flowering plants. Otherwise, flowerbeds containing tulips or other toxic plants should be securely fenced off to prevent access.
It’s important to remember that dogs are often most interested in tulip bulbs when freshly planted, especially if they like to dig! As far as your dog is concerned, you’re playing ‘hide the ball-shaped thing’ and they’re digging it back up to play with!
The use of fertilizers like blood and bone will also be tempting for many dogs due to their smell! Not only will this increase the chance of Fido digging up your tulips, but these fertilizers can also be toxic to dogs. Always make sure to supervise your pup closely when gardening, or consider keeping them confined to another area temporarily while you work.
Tulip toxicity is caused by irritating chemicals. These chemicals help protect the plant. They most commonly cause mild cases of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Most dogs will require only supportive treatment to recover. However, if large amounts of bulb are consumed more serious symptoms may appear.
If your dog has eaten tulips, it’s always best to contact your veterinarian for advice. The toxic effects are not always predictable. It’s also possible for large pieces of tulip bulb to become lodged in the gut, causing an obstruction.
April 21, 2022 at 8:27 pm
While I greatly appreciate access to this important information (especially because my dog just ate tulip flower, leaves and stem), having pictures of dogs with the poisonous flower in their mouths seems mighty strange and borderline irresponsible for a site that is supposed to provide safety information for dogs/pets. Please consider removing the pictures or separating the pictures of pooches and tulips or other poisonous plants! Much obliged.
April 25, 2022 at 2:20 pm
Lesa, first of all, we hope your dog is doing okay! And secondly, we're glad you found this article educational. Thanks also for the suggestion to update the photos. However, they are of dogs with tulips in their mouth or sniffing, but not eating or ingesting the tulips themselves. We definitely take accuracy into consideration when selecting images so as not to misinform readers. Stay safe!