Is Hibiscus Poisonous to Dogs (Flowers & Leaves Toxic to Dogs)?

is hibiscus poisonous to dogs

The hibiscus is a beautiful, vibrant flower that can brighten many a backyard or garden. Because of this, it’s hard to believe that something so attractive could potentially be dangerous or toxic to your dog.

You might have heard about hibiscus and dogs, in particular how the flowers, leaves, and plant can potentially poison your pet. I decided to collate as much information as I could from trusted sources to understand whether hibiscus is toxic to dogs and what you should do if you dog eats the flower.

Is hibiscus poisonous to dogs? Some species of the hibiscus flower and plant are poisonous to dogs, whilst others will not be toxic. However, experts say that the root of the hibiscus plant will nearly always be harmful and make a dog sick. 

That’s not the most clear-cut of answers, because with there being nearly 680 species of hibiscus, how exactly are you meant to know which one is poisonous to your dog?

The bottom line is, you should really make your dog avoid all hibiscus, unless you’re that confident in knowing which hibiscus plants poisonous to dogs.

The experts agree, as in 2014, Doctor John Tegzes, a vet and professor of toxicology was quoted by NBC News as saying the following:

“Most hibiscus are fine, but there are a couple of varieties that are poisonous to dogs in particular, and unless you know which one that is, it can be dangerous.’

With that in mind, I would treat any hibiscus as poisonous to dogs to be completely safe and to reduce the harm of toxicity and illness.

What I have done though, is search the web to see if I can define which are the hibiscus flowers poisonous to dogs, so you can be extra careful.

Important: Before you proceed, this guide should not be taken as expert veterinarian advice and is simply the best collation of information I could find online. If your dog has eaten hibiscus, you should always call a vet, no matter what type of plant or flower it was.

Which hibiscus flowers are poisonous to dogs?

Different types of the hibiscus flowers can cause a different degree of poisoning in dogs. However, the Rose of Sharon hibiscus plant, which incidentally the type of hibiscus often found in houseplants, is the type of hibiscus most commonly thought to cause serious poisoning in your pup if ingested.

I have read multiple entries online where commentators say is the Rose of Sharon is the hibiscus toxic to dogs and should be considered the most poisonous.

are hibiscus leaves poisonous to dogs
Some hibiscus flowers are poisonous to dogs, but which ones? (Image via https://pixabay.com/photos/hibiscus-yellow-flower-99474/)

Which parts of the hibiscus are poisonous to dogs?

Depending on the type of hibiscus plant your dog eats, the extent of which the flower, leaves and the stem are poisonous to your dog will very.

However, as previously mentioned, the root of the hibiscus plant is nearly always poisonous and can make dogs sick.

So, if your dog ingests any root of a hibiscus plant or any of the species, even if you largely believe that type of hibiscus to be safe, you should get professional vet advice.

What makes hibiscus toxic to dogs?

Whilst there are many as-yet-unidentified poisonous properties in the roots and foliage of the hibiscus plant, one of the most well-known poisonous properties of hibiscus can be found in the plant itself.

This property is called asparagine, which is an amino acid that can cause several unpleasant symptoms in your dog such as diarrhoea, vomiting and internal burns and blisters that can interfere in the way your dog is able to eat and drink.

Because of the severe symptoms that manifest when your dog ingests asparagine, it is important to consult your vet as soon as possible if you suspect your dog has eaten some hibiscus.

My dog ate hibiscus; should I worry?

As mentioned before, some types of hibiscus are more poisonous to dogs than others. However, that doesn’t mean that it is worth taking the risk.

Depending on the kind of hibiscus plant your dog eats, they may only experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms as opposed to more intense types.

However, as mentioned before, the root of any hibiscus has a lot of toxic qualities that be harmful to dogs. So, if your dog eats a hibiscus root, it is important to get call a vet immediately.

Can eating hibiscus kill my dog?

As mentioned before, a lot of the symptoms associated with hibiscus poisoning are related to gastrointestinal upset. Vomiting and diarrhoea are commonplace, and in more severe cases, you may find blood in your dog’s vomit or stool.

The loss of fluids that occur with frequent vomiting and diarrhoea can prove to be fatal to your pup, so to avoid this happening, it is important to take them to the vets immediately to avoid any gastrointestinal upset.

Signs of hibiscus poisoning in dogs

The symptoms of hibiscus poisoning range from mild to severe, but they almost always have a gastrointestinal element due to the way in which the amino acid in hibiscus interacts with your dog’s guts.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of hibiscus poisoning below, but please be advised that this list is not exhaustive (according to WagWalking.com).

  • Inability to eat or drink.
  • Burning of mouth or throat – this might become clear if you catch your dog excessively scratching at their mouth or face.
  • A blistering and/or swelling in the tongue and mouth (which can also affect swallowing).
  • If eye contact with the hibiscus occurs, your dog might experience eye pain or damage to their cornea.
  • Coughing and gagging.
    Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, or any other unusual behaviour after eating hibiscus, it is important to get them urgent medical help.

What do I do if my dog eats hibiscus?

If you suspect your dog has eaten hibiscus, it is important to take them to the vets. If possible, you should bring a sample of the hibiscus plant in order to help your vet assess the extent of poisoning your dog might have experienced.

Your vet will perform an extensive physical examination and series of blood tests on your dog in order to assess the damage and rule out any other possible cause for your dog’s symptoms.

If it is found that your dog is indeed suffering from hibiscus poisoning, your vet will begin the standard procedure associated with animal poisoning: evacuation, detoxification, medication and observation.

Evacuation involves inducing vomiting in your dog to try and get the poison out of their system, whilst detoxification involves your vet incorporating intravenous (IV) fluids to flush the kidneys through.

Your vet will also medicate your dog if there are suffering with any blisters or burns related to poisoning and will then either keep the dog in for observation or give you advice on how you can observe your dog at home.

Conclusion

The hibiscus pant is comprised of several hundred species (679, to be exact) found in tropical and subtropical regions across the globe. The flowers can be up to six inches wide and 12 inches tall, and can come in an assortment of colours including peach, white, yellow and red.

Due to the hibiscus plant’s bright colors and huge size, many dogs are attracted to the flowers, thinking it might look like a tasty looking snack.

And that’s why hibiscus and dogs can present such a problem.

From puppyhood, all dogs become accustomed to exploring the world through their mouth. Nine times out of ten, their first instinct when they see a new plant in your backyard will be: “I wonder what that tastes like?”

Whilst this is a behaviour more common in puppies, it is an instinct that most dogs nonetheless never grow out of completely.

Given how certain hibiscus leaves are poisonous to dogs, and some aren’t, it’s not worth the risk – so keep dog and flowers well away from each other.

There are many beautiful plants out there that are non-toxic to your dog, so being a pet owner doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful home and garden.

You might also like…

I’ve written about other toxic or poisonous plants before, so here’s a selection of others you should avoid:

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/swamp-hibiscus-pink-flower-174016/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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