Do Dogs Know Not to Eat Ivy?

by Betty Lewis
    Some dogs enjoy munching on greenery.

    Some dogs enjoy munching on greenery.

    Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

    Cats are known to be finicky eaters, but dogs are a different story. Maybe you've noticed on your daily walks with Scout that he's willing to try just about anything. There's much your pup shouldn't eat, but he doesn't know the difference; it's up to you to teach him to steer clear of ivy.

    Why Does He Eat That?

    It's tempting to assume dogs know what and what not to eat because of their instinct to eat grass to soothe an upset belly. It's common for a dog who's been gulping grass to vomit, possibly giving him relief from a gassy or painful tummy. However, just because Scout's instinct draws him to green grass doesn't mean it he knows not to eat potentially harmful greens, such as ivy. In your pup's very distant past, his ancestors had to scavenge for food, eating whatever prey or vegetation they could find. Though you're feeding Scout a healthy, well-balanced diet, he still enjoys a good snack, upset tummy or not, hungry or not. Like all dogs, he simply enjoys a tasty morsel whenever the mood strikes.

    Toxic Ivy

    Grass untreated with pesticides and other chemicals is fine for Scout, but ivy is a different story. According to the ASPCA and the Pet Poison Helpline, English ivy and devil's ivy -- otherwise known as golden pothos -- are toxic to dogs. English ivy's foliage is more toxic than its berries; if your pooch snacks on it, he may experience vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation and abdominal pain. The stem and leaves of devil's ivy are problematic, causing oral pain, drooling, foaming and vomiting. His lips, tongue, mouth and upper airway may swell, causing breathing and swallowing problems.

    Eating Ivy

    If Scout decided ivy was a green to munch, call the vet or the ASPCA's poison control hotline. Don't induce vomiting unless the vet or a poison control specialist recommends it. If a trip to the vet is in order, take a sample of the plant with you, as it will help confirm exactly what he's been chewing on and guide his treatment, which may include activated charcoal and other medication.

    Safety Measures

    You can do a few things to minimize the chance Scout eats something toxic. The ASPCA's list of toxic and nontoxic plants can serve as a guide for landscaping choices, helping you choose plants safe for your pup, in case he indulges in some extra greens while he's out. Teaching him the "leave it" command is another option. It will take a bit of time and training, but giving Scout an understanding of what he needs to stay away from, whether it's another dog or a chicken bone on the sidewalk, will keep him safe.

    Photo Credits

    • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.

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