Are Bleeding Heart Plants Poisonous to Dogs?

by Axl J. Amistaadt
Outdoor plants aren't good snacks for Rusty.

Outdoor plants aren't good snacks for Rusty.

Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

A charming and traditional cottage garden shrub, the bleeding heart plant (Dicentra spectabilis) adorns North American properties with graceful arching stems of puffy, rosy-pink hanging hearts. But this beauty has an ornery side. If your dog eats even a little bit of this old-time perennial, he’s likely to order up an old-fashioned bellyache with a side of itchy skin.

Strange Brew

The foliage and roots of the bleeding heart plant contain alkaloids -- toxic substances that can cause loss of coordination, tremors and drooling when small amounts are ingested. These substances can produce gastrointestinal distress, and some dogs may experience dermatitis. One of the bad guys is isoquinoline, a dedicated multitasker. It’s not only a gastrointestinal irritant, it’s a convulsant that toys with the central nervous system. Sizeable doses of this little imp add difficulty breathing, seizures and potential for death to the already bubbling cauldron.


If you believe that your dog has eaten part of the bleeding heart plant, call your veterinarian right away. The doctor may wish to give you instructions for purging the material from the dog’s stromach and delaying the absorption of the toxin by the intestinal tract. Recommendations are specific to the dog’s age, weight and breed. If you can’t reach your veterinarian, call the ASPCA’s 24-hour, 365-day Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435. A consultation fee is typical, but the call could save your dog’s life.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Pets and pet rescue are my greatest passions -- followed closely by global wildlife and our environment -- and I have done extensive research on pet and wildlife rescue, fostering, adoption, etc. on their behalf. I was a Florida State Wildlife Rehab Agent for a number of years. I currently specialize in locating online sites where part or all of the proceeds from the items that are purchased are donated to rescued animals in North American shelters, sanctuaries and preserves. I write material designed to entice and encourage shoppers to frequent these sites, many of which offer huge selections of all sorts of merchandise.{{}}