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Are ZZ Plants Poisonous? Are They Toxic to Pets?

There are many myths about ZZ plants and many people think that these plants can cause cancer and the only way they should be handled is while wearing gloves.

Yes, ZZ plants belong to the Araceae family of plants which is poisonous. But many people are not sure how poisonous the plant is exactly.

Wearing gloves is not necessary, however can be a good idea, but ZZ plants are not as toxic as many people think.

Ingesting the leaves and sap can be toxic for pets and humans as well, but if only touching it, can only cause skin irritation but this is in the worst-case scenario.

What Makes ZZ Plants Poisonous?

ZZ Plant, such as other plants from the Araceae family, produces a substance called Calcium Oxalate which is the same substance that human kidney stones are made up of.

The plant produces calcium oxalate as a defence against predators and to regulate calcium in the tissues of the foliage.

The Calcium Oxalate will cause irritation if in contact with skin or other body parts, especially with the intestines, because of its crystal-like sharp-edged shape.

Are ZZ Plants Poisonous to Pets?

Because ZZ plants can cause different allergic-like reactions in humans, we might think that this can be deadly for our pets because they are much smaller than us.

However, this is not true. ZZ plant is toxic for animals as well, but it will not cause their death.

If an animal touches the plant and comes into contact with its sap may develop inflammation and irritation of the skin, eyes or mucus membranes.

But if your pet eats a part of your ZZ plants, then the reactions will be worse. Don’t get panicked! Your pet will be still fine at the end.

So, if the plant is ingested by your pet, you should expect that this will have a stomach ache and a bad case of diarrhoea, in some cases vomiting can occur as well.

If your pet is vomiting, then you must encourage it to drink water and eat because vomiting can cause severe dehydration. So, the plant itself cannot kill your pet, but dehydration can cause its death.

If you have pets like cats or dogs which are too curious, then you should think twice before buying a ZZ plant, or you should move it to a place where your pets will not have access to it.

Can You Die from Eating a ZZ Plant?

We mention ZZ plants as “toxic” and “poisonous”, however, these terms are exaggerated. Some plants are really toxic and poisonous, and can threaten your life, but not the ZZ plant.

The most common effect of toxicity is when your skin gets into contact with the plant’s sap. Usually, exposure to the sap causes itchy, red, rash-like symptoms on your skin, which sometimes can be painful as well.

Or if the sap gets somehow into your eyes. Because this area is soft tissue, the crystal-shaped calcium oxalate will cause your eyes a burning and itching feeling, which comes with redness and watery eyes.

When chewed or swallowed, the calcium oxalate crystals will cause the cut or tear of the tongue, gums and throat’s soft tissues. This will lead to some more serious symptoms like swelling, pain, stomach-ache, but nothing deadly.

I assume that no one would walk around its ZZ plant and nibbling on it. So, this last case would apply to small children and babies who might put it in their mouths.

Symptoms of ZZ Plant Intoxication

As the sharp crystal-like calcium oxalate can have different reactions in different situations, it is important to know what symptoms to look for if you or your loved ones, including your pets, come into contact with this substance.

Eating the ZZ Plant

You should never eat any part of the ZZ plant. However, sometimes children do this because they are curious.

If the ZZ plant is chewed, then you should expect:

  • Sharp mouth pain
  • Burning sensation of the mouth and throat
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat
  • Temporary hoarseness

Usually, meeting these first signs, the plant is spit out, but if it is swallowed, the symptoms are usually these:

  • Stomach-ache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms should last for only a few hours and are not deadly, especially if a small amount of the plant was consumed.

Touching the ZZ Plant

As I mentioned above, touching your ZZ plant can only cause some skin irritation, but only if this comes into contact with the plant’s sap.

If this happens, symptoms could be:

  • Skin irritation
  • Minor rash
  • Itching

If the sap gets into your eyes, discomfort and irritation will occur.

Symptoms in Pets

If your pets’ bare skin or mucus membranes or even eyes come into contact with the calcium oxalate, you can expect some temporary irritation and discomfort.

If a pet eats the ZZ plant, this will show symptoms as follow:

  • Oral pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhoea
  • Pawing at their mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of the upper airway (but this is very rare)

These symptoms can appear within 2 hours after swallowing the plant and can last for up to 24 hours.

Wrap Up

If we say ZZ plants are toxic, then it can be scary, but before you run to your plant and throw it away or burn it, you should just think about what should you do to avoid “intoxication” to happen.

First of all, if you have pets or children, you should put your ZZ plant in a place where these cannot reach it.

Also, if you have to repot your plant, it is best to wear gloves, so you can prevent even the chance of skin irritation. Even if you wear gloves while handling your ZZ plant, you should always wash your hands and arms just for the piece of your mind.

Is very important to remember: chewing or eating ZZ plants is NOT recommended.

Updated: March 24, 2021

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