Azaleas grow all over the country, from the southeast to the west coast. They bloom in the spring and early summer with beautiful flowers in red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple. They are vibrant and add character to any landscape, and they are one of the most popular plants in the garden.
Azaleas are poisonous. They can cause health problems in people and animals. Some azaleas in the evergreen family keep their leaves all year around. They contain toxins called grayanotoxins, and they are dangerous to people and animals if they are eaten. Symptoms range from low blood pressure to irregular heart rhythms, mild paralysis, and hallucinations.
Are Azaleas Poisonous to People?
Azaleas are poisonous to people. Most adults know not to eat azaleas, but small children might be drawn to their colorful flowers. The first symptoms are a burning in the mouth, and then people develop excessive saliva. If you consume honey made from azalea nectar, it could contain the grayanotoxins, and cause “mad honey disease.” This affliction includes symptoms such as vomiting, low blood pressure, low heart rate, convulsions, paralysis, tingling, hallucinations, and seizures.
When people eat azaleas, some of the toxins are broken down and neutralized. People don’t often die from eating azaleas. However, there are greater risks for small children. They may eat more and suffer from cardiac arrhythmia. If a person suffers from azalea poisoning, it usually takes about 24 hours to recover. However, any extreme reaction will take longer.
Are Azaleas Poisonous to Dogs?
Azaleas are poisonous to dogs. The same neurotoxin, grayanotoxin, can disrupt the dog’s ability to return to a normal physical state after being excited. It also interferes with skeletal and nerve function and harms the heart. It can cause irregular heart rhythms, tremors, and low blood pressure. It can even disturb the cell membranes in the dog’s body and prevent them from functioning properly.
Look for the following symptoms in your dog after azalea poisoning:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Appetite loss
- Abnormal heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Shallow breathing
If you know that your dog has eaten part of the azalea bush, you need to watch for any of these symptoms. Most of the time, you will want to take your dog to the vet right away for supportive treatment and therapy. The vet can give activated charcoal to neutralize the toxins, and they can induce vomiting and give fluids as needed.
After azalea poisoning, your dog can recover in as few as 24 hours. If your dog was more seriously affected, it could take more time. It is important to remember that it only takes a small amount of azalea to cause symptoms, so you should take action quickly.
Are Azaleas Poisonous to Cats?
Azaleas are poisonous to cats. The toxin, grayanotoxins, can disrupt your cat’s sodium channels and affect the skeletal and cardiac muscle. It can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension, irregular heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, and even death. If your cat eats azaleas, you need to get in touch with your vet right away. It takes about 30 minutes for symptoms to show up, and you may need supportive care.
If you take your cat to the vet, they are likely to give it activated charcoal to neutralize it. They will also give anti-nausea meds to prevent vomiting, and they may give your cat fluids to prevent dehydration. Azaleas are toxic to people and most animals, so it is best to keep this plant somewhere that animals and children can’t get to it.
Are Azaleas Poisonous to Livestock?
Azaleas are poisonous to horses, to goats, to sheep, and to chickens. First of all, it is extremely toxic to horses. The grayanotoxins are cardiac glycosides, and they will obstruct the natural heart rhythm in the horse and cause arrhythmias and potentially lead to cardiac arrest. Horses will usually avoid azaleas, but if they are not offered enough forage, they may eat azalea. This is especially true in the winter when they have trouble finding other options.
If your horse eats any amount of the azalea plant, you need to call your vet right away. Azalea poisoning can be fatal. Look for any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive salivation
- Frothy, green foam from mouth
- Appetite loss
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Muscle weakness
If your horse eats one to two pounds of azalea leaves, it can be fatal. The toxins will bind to the cell membranes that are in charge of activation of the cells, and they will stop normal function. Make sure your horses have nutritious forage available so that they won’t eat azaleas.
Azaleas are also poisonous to goats and sheep. It only takes a tiny amount to make the goat sick. Normally, the goat will have severe stomach pain followed by bloating. If the goat eats too much, the poison can be fatal. There is no antidote for the poison in azaleas, so the vet will offer supportive care.
Goats will eat whatever they can find, so you should make sure that you don’t have azaleas where they can get ahold of them. Azaleas are also very toxic to chickens, and your chickens can die if they eat too much. The resin from the toxins will burn the chicken, and then they become very sick. If a chicken consumes as little as 0.2% of their body weight, it can be very dangerous. If your chickens eat azaleas, you need to seek vet care right away. You can also give your chicken water with Epsom salts to try to flush out the poisoning. You should move the azaleas away from the chickens so that it doesn’t happen again.
Are Azaleas Poisonous to Wild Animals?
Azaleas are poisonous to some wild animals, such as rabbits, but deer love them and will eat them. They are not poisonous to deer. Deer actually love to eat them, and they can do a lot of damage. If you have these plants, you will want to protect them from deer, especially in the winter.