Common plants causing skin irritation to dogs and cats.

Our pets are exposed to an extensive variety of plants within your own backyard, nature strips, parks and neighbours’ properties in your street – even their visits to the vet!

Plants produce certain chemicals and toxins as a means of deterrence from being handled and eaten; however this is not always a successful defense to our cats and dogs. Different reactions can occur through direct contact or consumption of the plant from low to high toxicity; signs commonly seen can be from skin irritation, through to gastrointestinal disturbances such as vomiting and diarrhoea, and abnormal neurological signs.

A great book of reference for toxicological information and identification of plants is poisonous2pets by Nicole O’Kane. As owners we can be better informed to prevent potentially life threatening events, but also chronic irritation that can be a frequent occurrence from repeated exposure to a seemingly harmless plant.

This blog focuses of common plants which commonly cause skin irritation from direct contact. It is advised to seek veterinary assessment in order to rule out other potential causes of skin irritation such as metabolic diseases, parasite infestation, flea allergy dermatitis, food allergy, or other environmental irritants. Once the skin is irritated and inflamed, bacteria can often cause secondary infection and your pet may need treatment with cortisone, and/or anti-bacterial ointment to settle the itch and infection.

Common plants causing skin irritation:

Agapanthus – skin irritation from the entire plant and particularly its sap.

Borage – skin irritation and dermatitis from contact with the entire plant.

Burdock – local irritation of the skin caused from burs on the plant.

Buttercup – minor dermatitis, skin redness, burning and blisters after contact with the sap.

Carnations – minor skin irritation causes as a result of contact with the leaves.

Chinese Evergreen – causes contact dermatitis, redness and skin irritation after contact with its sap.

Chinese Lantern – causes a short duration of skin irritation and dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) from contact with the leaves, usually with no lasting effects.

Chrysanthemum – skin irritation, rash, dermatitis, itchiness from contact with the entire plant particularly the leaves.

Clover – photo dermatitis (sunburn or sunscalded) from contact with the entire plant.

Cyclamen – skin reactions and dermatitis from the entire plant especially the bulbs and roots.

Daffodil – dermatitis from contact with the entire plant particularly the bulbs.

Dahlia – skin irritation and dermatitis from leaves and tubers.

Daisy – skin irritation and dermatitis from contact with the entire plant.

Daphne – dermatitis from contact with the leaves.

Eucalyptus – skin irritation, redness and burning, and dermatitis from contact with the leaves and bark.

Frangipani – skin irritation, rash and dermatitis from contact with the entire plant, particularly the sap.

Geranium – mild dermatitis from contact with the entire plant.

Glacier Ivy – dermatitis cause from contact with foliage.

Gladiolas – dermatitis causes especially with contact with the bulbs.

Grevillia – dermatitis, especially from contact with seeds and pods.

Hyacinth – dermatitis from exposure with the entire plant.

Iris – dermatitis from exposure with the entire plant.

Mother-In-Laws’ Tongue – skin irritation, and dermatitis from contact with the entire plant.

Oleander – dermatitis, skin irritation from contact with the entire plant particularly sap and vase water.

Poinsettia – severe skin irritation and blistering from contact with the plants milky sap.

Rye Grass – itches to feet, lower legs and stomach from exposure to the entire plant.

Stinging Nettles – burning, itching and irritation from the stinging hairs on the leaves and stems.

Tulip – skin allergy and eczema from contact with the bulbs, leaves and stem.

Wandering Dew – contact dermatitis from contact with the leaves.



If direct contact with the plant has occurred and redness/rash is observed, rinse your pet for 10 minutes with running water to help remove the plant substance. If any plant has been ingested, remove any remaining material from their mouth and rinse with water.

If symptoms persist and your pet appears stressed, anxious or other symptoms progress including gastrointestinal disturbance such as vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, or neurological abnormalities such as lethargy, depression, staggering etc. contact your Vet immediately for advice.


  • Know what plants are in your backyard, and remove those that are known to cause irritation, or are poisonous.
  • Keep a diary of when your pet is showing irritation and the area they have been so that you can try to pinpoint the source.
  • Use shampoos such as Aloveen and Nutriderm which can help to soothe the skin, and protect the skin barrier.
  • The use of Omega 3 oil as a supplement (already contained in most premium dog foods) helps to maintain the skins natural barrier, and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Wandering Dew

Wandering Dew

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