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Pet Poisoning Symptoms - Your Rhubarb Plants Can Be Harmful

Elizabeth Orr on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

It is a well known fact to many, that a substance called oxalate is quite prevalent in the leaves of the rhubarb plant. It is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream if ingested and can cause severe problems.

Rhubarb lovers and gardeners alike know that only the stems are eaten, and the leaves are cut off at harvest time. Some of us faithfully wear gloves at all times. Some do not. Some people compost the leaves. Others make a quick trip to the garbage dump. There is some debate on the severity of the dangers.

Yet, with all we know, and all we have read, how many of us put our pets outside on a daily basis?

We consistently send our pets outdoors to wander the property to enjoy the sun, get some fresh air and exercise or simply to do their business. We don't give this daily routine any second thought.

I bet that a huge chunk of the population never really considers the danger a simple garden plant can pose to a curious animal. It isn't due to a lack of caring or concern for our beloved pets. I think it is simply a case of wishful thinking and crossed fingers that our pet will return in the same state as when he left.

Animals are so instinctively curious and notorious for getting into things they should avoid.

Humans know better, or at least we should. Animals do not, and so we should be aware that the symptoms displayed by rhubarb poisoning in pets are very similar to those displayed in humans.

A pet in trouble will typically display the signs in the form of excessive drooling or vomiting or both. They will obviously be not too steady on their feet and appear to be staggering. Your pet may show signs of obvious abdominal pain when touched. Eventually he may even go into convulsions. Would you know how to handle this, seeing that your pet is in distress?

The most obvious thing to do I believe, would be to immediately call your veterinarian for his opinion.


You are sure to be advised to get your pet medical attention. Instructions have been published on how to give an animal ipecac to induce vomiting. I don't believe this is the best thing to do, simply because we are not qualified to determine if that is the solution. I would not use the hydrogen-peroxide and water mixture either for the same reason. Vomiting can even enhance the problem on the way back up as well.

I also don't believe this is a good idea, as it means physically forcing your pet to do this while they are distressed. I speak from experience that the worst thing you can do, is put your hands around the face of a pet who is severely agitated. If you think there is poison in a rhubarb leaf, consider the bacteria contained in the front long fangs of a cat. While trying to comfort a distressed pet, I was immediately bitten on the knuckle. My hand became horribly red and inflamed overnight. It swelled to an incredible size much to the worry of my doctor. That is a dangerous situation, and took two weeks to begin to heal.

Get some assistance, wear heavy gloves and muzzle your pet if you can. Transport them in a carrier to your vet and keep them warm with a familiar blanket. Take vomit samples with you. Have a sample of the leaf if possible.

If you are not sure to begin with how serious the situation is, call your local SPCA, or Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. Be as ready for them with information as you would with your own child.

We need to discipline ourselves as responsible pet lovers to improve our efforts to keep them safe in their own surroundings. We should be faithfully accompanying them when we put them outside to roam freely. We should be there to guide them away from any garden dangers. We need to put barriers around the dangerous parts of our gardens. Better yet, we should have specific places for them to roam where they are restricted to that one safe area only.


Elizabeth Orr:

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