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Is Pothos a Toxic to Pets and Humans?

Yes, pothos plants are considered toxic, and you should keep your pets and children away from this houseplant. Photos are one of the most popular, resilient and easy to grow houseplants, however not many know about its toxicity level. If you have children or pets, you should be careful keeping pothos.

Luckily, pothos plants are not fatally toxic, but they can and will cause significant swelling, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, and even vomiting when ingested.

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You need to be especially attentive with pets and small children that might ingest the plant. But even adults should be careful to wear protective gloves when handling the plant.

Because it’s such a widespread plant in our homes, I think it’s important to discuss the toxicity of pothos plants. I’ll discuss the symptoms of pothos poisoning and what to do if one of your pets eats a leaf or the stem of a pothos plant.

Symptoms of Pothos Intoxication

Pothos poisoning in cats and dogs can produce a host of symptoms, depending on the severity of the intoxication based on the amount of plant that’s been ingested.

Therefore, pothos intoxication can have the following symptoms in cats and dogs:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Swelling of lips and tongue
  • Irritation and intense burning sensation of mouth (your dog may paw at its mouth)
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Trouble breathing because of a potential closing of the airways
  • Irregular heartbeat

Because some of these symptoms can be very dangerous (e.g. vomiting can cause severe dehydration), it’s important to get help for your pet as soon as possible.

In humans, the plant causes irritation of mucous membranes, swelling, blistering, and GI upset. It’s important to keep this plant away from children and wear protective gloves when trimming it or when you’re repotting it.

Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals is the toxic principle found in pothos plants that is responsible for these symptoms.

All parts of the plant contain it, so it doesn’t matter if your cat or dog is chewing on a leaf or the stem of the plant — all parts of the plant are dangerous.

Of course, the quantity of the plant relative to the dog’s or cat’s weight will determine how severe or mild their symptoms will be. In this respect, cats are at a disadvantage since they tend to be smaller than the average dog.

What to do If Your Pet Eats Pothos?

If you catch your pet munching on a pothos leaf, you must immediately flush their mouths with clean, cold water to wash away as much of the calcium oxalate crystals as possible.

Symptoms will appear as soon as the sap of the pothos plant touches any mucous membranes or soft tissues.

Because even mild symptoms can take a turn for the worse, it’s important to talk to your vet about your options, especially if large quantities of the plant were ingested.

Your vet will assess the severity of the symptoms and start your pet on a treatment regimen that can include:

  • Fluid therapy is your dog has been vomiting or struggling to keep food down
  • Activated charcoal or other medicine to help bind the toxic substance and keep it from causing further problems
  • Medicine to help coat the gastrointestinal tract and help with inflammation
  • Intravenous antihistamines to deal with the irritation and swelling problems

Your vet may also direct you to feed your pet a couple of spoons of natural yoghurt per day to help coat the GI tract and ease the symptoms of inflammation.

With treatment, your pet will bounce back to normal within a week.

Unbeknownst to many of us, there are quite a few houseplants that are toxic to pets including philodendrons, peace lilies, rubber tree plant, dracaena, etc.

Here are my go-to tips to prevent poisoning caused by houseplants in your pets:

  • Keep toxic houseplants out of the reach of your pets (may be more difficult with cats)
  • Discourage your pets from playing with any plants, whether indoors or outdoors
  • Don’t allow access to rooms where you keep potentially toxic houseplants
  • Clean up any leaves fallen to the floor
  • Monitor your pets if they go into a room with houseplants

With dogs, it’s much easier to avoid poisoning caused by plants, but cats will jump on shelves and tabletops, so it’s more difficult.

Is Pothos Safe for Aquarium Fish?

Yes, pothos plants are safe for aquariums as long as the leaves are above the water level. The leaves themselves are not toxic to fish, it’s just that pothos leaves may rot in the tank, which is something you must avoid.

Because pothos plants can grow in water as well, you can grow them in your fish tank, but the leaves must stay above the water level.

Pothos plants can have a beneficial effect on the tank environment. They can aerate the water by using up the carbon dioxide expelled by fish and releasing oxygen into the tank.

They absorb nitrates and offer excellent biological filtration to your tank. Its long roots can serve as a hiding spot for tiny fish or they can often be used by other fish as a site to lay eggs on.

Is Pothos Toxic to Humans?

Yes, pothos plants are toxic to humans causing more or less the same symptoms like in pets — swelling, irritation, blistering of any soft tissues upon contact with the sap of the pothos plant.

When ingested, it will cause vomiting and GI upset because of the swelling and irritation of mucous membranes.

Always wear protective gloves and even eye protection when handling the plant in case you come into contact with its sap. Keep the plant out of the reach of children.

Conclusion

Although beloved as a houseplant, a pothos plant can cause poisoning if the sap of the plant gets into contact with the skin, eyes, or other soft tissues.

Pets are the most likely to suffer from poisoning, but it’s just as toxic to humans too. Because of their small size and ability to reach even high shelves, if you have cats, I recommend that you avoid keeping pothos plants in your home.

If you suspect your dog, cat or even child has ingested a piece of the plant, seek medical attention to quickly and efficiently manage symptoms.

Posted in Pothos - Updated: November 8, 2021

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