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Are Scented Geranium Plants Poisonous?

Many plants can pose a health risk to your pets or children. Scented geraniums are kept both as houseplants and garden plants, therefore, it’s important to learn about their toxicity.

In this article, I will examine whether scented geraniums (pelargoniums) are poisonous to cats, dogs, and several herbivores. I’ll also discuss whether these plants are edible for humans.

Are Scented Geraniums Poisonous to Cats & Dogs?

Yes, according to the ASPCA website, scented geraniums are poisonous to cats and dogs.

Geraniol and linalool are the toxic compounds in pelargoniums that can cause GI upset, vomiting, depression, anorexia, ataxia, muscle weakness and dermatitis in cats and dogs.

Cats are the most sensitive to the toxic effects of scented geraniums both because of their small size compared to dogs and because of the sensitivity to these toxic compounds.

If you notice your dog or cat eating leaves or blooms off your scented geraniums, make sure to contact your vet on what to do next.

It’s a good idea to generally discourage your pets from eating any plants in your garden or in your home. There are several common plants that can have adverse health effects on your pets.

Are Scented Geraniums Toxic to Rabbits and Herbivores?

Yes, geranium leaves can cause toxicity in rabbits, horses and other herbivores, so access of herbivorous domestic animals to scented geranium plants should be restricted.

Rabbits and other herbivores may be even more inclined to much on the leaves of pelargoniums plants than cats or dogs, for example.

Therefore, whether you have pet rabbits or other pet herbivores, make sure your pelargoniums are kept out of their reach.

Scented Geranium Intoxication in Pets

Because scented geranium intoxication can manifest differently in cats and dogs, I’m going to discuss the symptomatology specific to each, treatment options, and outlook.

Symptoms of pelargonium intoxication in cats include:

  • GI upset
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypothermia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Ataxia

All parts of the plant are poisonous to cats including the roots, stem, leaves and the flowers. Therefore, no matter which part of it your cat ends up ingesting, pelargoniums are going to be poisonous.

For a better diagnosis, take a piece of the plant with you to the vet. Inform your vet about the quantity ingested, the time that has passed since the ingestion and when did the symptoms first appear.

Your vet will induce vomiting in your cat to rid the body of any undigested pieces of pelargonium. Activated charcoal may also be administered to bind the toxic compounds and your feline will also be put on intravenous liquids to ensure proper hydration.

If you manage to get your cat to the vet in time and they administer medication, your cat is expected to make a full recovery in about 24 hours.

While cats are most at danger from scented geranium intoxication because of their small size and because even a small amount of the plant can be dangerous to them, dogs are also affected.

Symptoms of pelargonium intoxication in dogs:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Low body temperature
  • Red eyes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat and cardiac changes
  • Weakness

Treatment of pelargonium intoxication in dogs includes the administration of an emetic to induce vomiting, followed by the administration of activated charcoal. A gastric lavage can also be carried out, if necessary. Other medications can also be administered including antacids and IV fluids.

Depending on the severity of the intoxication, your vet may keep your dog under observation for 12 to 24 hours. If you don’t delay taking your dog to the vet, you can expect a full recovery in a couple of days.

If your pet is not the curious kind and doesn’t have an affinity towards plants, you may get away with growing these plants in your home or garden.

However, the best way to avoid any issues is either keeping these plants somewhere where your pets don’t have access or simply removing them from your home or garden.

While pelargonium intoxication is rated by vets as a mild condition, it’s important to get help as soon as you notice symptoms, or you notice your pet ingesting any parts of the plant.

Are Scented Geranium Leaves and Petals Edible?

While toxic for dogs, cats, horses, and other herbivores, scented geranium leaves and petals are edible for humans and have had many applications throughout history, mostly as a food flavor.

Today, pelargoniums are commonly used to extract essential oils from them and have multiple uses in aromatherapy. Flowers can even be used in ice cubes to add flavor to cordials.

Scented geraniums plants can come in a multitude of interesting flavors such as lime, lemon, peach, apple, mint, rose, coconut, nutmeg, and many more.

Nurseries are constantly coming up with exciting new flavors through their breeding programs.

Scented geraniums have been used as flavor in jams, sugar, tea, but they’re also a common ingredient in dried potpourris. Currently, its application in aromatherapy is the most widespread.

In conclusion, scented geranium leaves don’t pose a danger for humans. That said, essential oils derived from scented geraniums may not be approved for internal use or they may contain other ingredients too that can be toxic to humans. Always read the label before using.

Essential oils derived from scented geraniums are toxic to pets, so avoid using them in infusers or other ways around your pets.

Because essential oils are the concentrated essence of the plant, they can be even more toxic to pets than the plants themselves.

Wrap Up

Unfortunately, growing scented geraniums around pets comes with the danger of intoxication. Pelargoniums are poisonous to cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and many other herbivores.

Because all parts of the plant can cause toxicity in pets, make sure your pets stay clear of any fallen leaves or petals as well.

If you’re sure you can prevent your pets from ingesting pelargoniums by restricting access, keeping plants out of the reach of pets, or actively discouraging pets to play with any plants, you can go ahead and grow pelargoniums in your home or garden.

Updated: March 23, 2021

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