Are conifers poisonous to dogs?
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The answer “it depends” to “are conifers poisonous to dogs?” is accurate but not useful when your dog’s health can be affected by what you grow in your garden. I explain what you should know and ask when choosing a conifer for your garden. The short answer is most conifers are not poisonous to dog, however, Yew trees (Taxus species) are poisonous to dogs and yews are a very common conifer which is why I bring it up here.
Levels of toxicity
Every conifer has a different level of toxicity to dogs. This ranges from “not at all” to “can cause sudden death”. In addition, different parts of the tree may have different levels of toxicity, making the whole question of danger to dogs a difficult one to evaluate.
It’s important to know exactly what trees you have in your garden or that you intend to buy. Not all conifers look like Christmas trees. Some trees have a common name (e.g. cedar) but the species may be different and have different dangers for pets. If you need to, take a branch from the tree to your local horticultural centre for them to identify. In this case, knowing the official Latin name of the plant is an advantage. Once you know what tree you’re dealing with, you can ask about its toxicity to animals.
But there are some conifers and evergreens that we know to be toxic for dogs. American holly (Ilex opaca) is mildly toxic and causes vomiting and diarrhea.
However, yew trees are extremely toxic and ingestion of yew can cause cardiac arrest and death in pets. In the U.S. south, just a few seeds from the sago palm are enough to cause death in pets, including dogs.
Instead of giving an incomplete list of conifers that are poisonous to dogs, I’m going to point you towards the Kennel Club of Britain’s list of harmful plants. They’re an expert authority on all things dog.
I urge you to pay the same attention to all the plants in your garden with regard to your dog’s well-being.
If the unthinkable does happen and you suspect that your dog has been poisoned by eating a plant, take them immediately along to the vet. If possible, take a sample of the tree/plant with you so the vet can identify the appropriate remedy.
If you grow lilies, be aware that lilies are also poisonous to dogs as explained in this guide