It may look soft, delicate and even docile, but this wildflower is one of the most toxic – and fast acting – plants your dog can ingest (even in a small amount).
(It’s also highly poisonous to humans.)
It’s called Water Hemlock and is a member of the carrot family. It typically grows in wet areas like marshes and swamps, damp pastures and along riverbanks, ponds, streams, irrigation ditches, reservoirs and other water edges in both North America and parts of Europe.
Water hemlock is also known as:
- beaver poison
- poison parsley
- muskrat weed
- poison parsnip
- spotted water hemlock
- western water hemlock
- cowbane/spotted cowbane
- bulblet-bearing water hemlock
If ingested, the violent effects of toxic poisoning may become evident within a few minutes (from a toxin called cicutoxin, an aggressive, poisonous stimulant that attacks the nervous system) and include:
- Dilated pupils
- Seizures and/or twitching
- Rapid heart rate/difficulty breathing/asphyxiation/choking
- Death from respiratory paralysis death (occurring between 15 minutes and 2 hours after the first initial signs of poisoning).
While the highest levels of its toxin is found in the roots, all parts of the water hemlock are poisonous and dog lovers should never let their dog get anywhere near it.
A side note, the water hemlock has a strong carrot-like odor which could attract curious dogs.
If you suspect your dog has come into contact with water hemlock, seek immediate emergency veterinary care.
To learn more about water hemlock and its potential dangers:
- “‘Violently Toxic’ Plant to Blame for Colorado Dog’s Sudden Death,” by Dr. Jennifer Coates on PetMd.com; and
- “What are the Dangers of Water Hemlock to Dogs,” by Kate Barrington.