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Dogs are curious creatures. They take every opportunity they get to play around in backyards and can go to an extent of indulging in various plants.
The problem, however, is that some plants produce poisonous berries that can bring about severe health complications to your dog.
For this reason, it is particularly important for dog owners to fully understand the plant varieties available within their homestead.
Understanding the toxicity of each plant variety helps you keep your canine companion safe at all times.
Below are some common berries that are likely to be found in your environment but are poisonous to dogs.
Ilex verticillata is a holly species that is native to parts of Canada and the United States, hence its aliases American Holly, English Holly, and Oregon Holly.
This rare deciduous plant produces a bright red fruit commonly found in wetlands.
However, do not let their colorful nature deceive you; winterberries are toxic to dogs.
They contain saponin toxins which cause diarrhea and vomiting in dogs.
Consumption of this berry can also make your canine pet docile, signifying depression.
2. Chinaberry Tree Berries
Berries from the Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach), also known as the white cedar or Persian lilac, are tiny marble-like fruits that turn from green to a tantalizing golden yellow in spring when they are fully ripe.
It is also during spring that these berries fall from the tree.
Their color and fleshy texture make them a highly tempting chomp for dogs.
Unfortunately, these berries are toxic to dogs. They are the most toxic part of a Chinaberry tree, especially ripe berries.
They contain meliatoxins, a type of toxins classified as tetranortriterpenes, that destabilize the dog’s nervous system.
Therefore, your dog is likely to experience seizures if it eats this berry.
Other notable clinical signs include salivation, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting.
3. Nandina Berries
Nandina, also known as sacred bamboo or heavenly bamboo, is a flowering plant from the Berberidaceae plantae family.
It is native to Japan in the Himalaya’s terrain.
This plant is a towering shrub that grows up to 8 ft. and is known for its tapered bamboo-like stems.
Nandina also features lush foliage that includes tiny red berries.
Nandina berries are toxic to dogs as they contain CNglcs (cyanogenic glycosides).
These are naturally occurring bioactive elements formed through the glycosylation of amino acids.
This compound is very hazardous to dogs. After ingestion, CNglcs are broken down to HCN (hydrogen cyanide) which causes convulsions, respiratory failure, uncoordinated movement, fatigue, dyspnea, vomiting, and reddish mucous membranes.
In severe cases, Nandina berry poisoning can be fatal or leave the dog in a coma.
4. Needlepoint Ivy Berries
Needlepoint ivy (hedera helix), commonly known as English Ivy, Sweetheart Ivy, or Glacier Ivy, is an evergreen self-clinging vine in the Ginseng plantae family.
Its vigorous and highly tolerant growing capabilities allow the plant to thrive off plants in all kinds of environments, including forests and urban areas.
In addition to its pointy, slender leaves and green flowers, the needlepoint ivy also features tiny blackberries that grow in closely-knit clusters.
Like other parts of this plant, these berries contain the toxic triterpenoid saponins which accelerate cellular proliferation, oxidation, metastasis, and inflammation.
Consequently, dogs that ingest these berries are likely to exhibit various clinical signs, such as abdominal pains, diarrhea, vomiting, and salivation.
5. Sprengeri Fern Berries
Sperengeri fern (asparagus densiflorus) is an herbaceous perennial commonly utilized for landscaping purposes due to its highly aesthetic foliage.
This towering plant can grow up to 4 ft. tall and has tiny leaves with a scaly texture.
Its foliage also features minute cladophylis that are very similar to the leaves, sparsely positioned thorns, and bright red ovoid berries.
Sperengeri fern berries are poisonous to dogs as they contain sapogenin, a toxic steroid.
This poisonous element brings about digestive distress to dogs.
Common clinical signs include diarrhea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain.
Dermal exposure to the thorns can also cause allergic dermatitis in dogs.
6. Scarlet Berry
Also known as poison berry, the scarlet berry is the teeny bright red fruit of the bittersweet nightshade (solanum dulcamara).
In addition to the berries, this plant’s foliage also includes pinnately lobed leaves arranged in a linear pattern.
The name “bittersweet” is derived from the berry’s bitter taste with a sugary aftertaste.
However, scarlet berries, especially unripe ones, contain solanine which is toxic to dogs.
While ingesting solanine cannot lead to fatality, it is harmful as it commonly brings about diarrhea and vomiting.
Some less common symptoms of scarlet berry poisoning in dogs include reduced heart rate, drowsiness, and reduced blood pressure.
7. Deadly Nightshade Berries
Just as the name suggests, Deadly nightshade is very lethal vegetation.
Scientifically known as the Atropa belladonna, this plant has tiny, glossy black berries that come off as miniature grapes.
In reality, however, Deadly nightshade berries are nothing like their juicy fruit look-alike.
They contain a naturally occurring glycoalkaloid poison called solanine, which is very toxic to dogs as it causes CNS (central nervous system) depression, confusion, pupil dilation, hyper-salivation, severe stomach upset, drowsiness, inappetence, reduced heart rate, fatigue, and confusion.
8. Black Cherry
Commonly referred to as rum cherry or black cherry (prunus serotina), this is a deciduous tree native to Chicago.
It is commonly found in the US’s eastern and Midwest hemispheres.
During spring, this tree blossoms with conspicuously white flowers that grow in pendulous arrangements.
In the summer, these flowers grow into black, pea-sized berries that are generally classified as plums.
The berries contain CNglcs which are significantly harmful to dogs.
After ingestion, this compound turns into HCN, which then causes dyspnea, convulsions, respiratory failure, vomiting, and reddish mucous membranes.
9. Yew Berry
Yew berries are dark red in color and are produced by the Taxus baccata tree.
It stands out as the only coniferous plant native to the United Kingdom.
Normally, male trees shed pollen grains in February, distributing them to their female counterparts.
By midwinter, the female species have fully produced yew berries.
Despite their bright colors, these berries are very toxic to dogs.
They contain taxine alkaloids which bring about acute cardiac failure in pets and can be fatal in severe cases.
Upon ingestion of yew berries, dogs begin experiencing early onset symptoms such as muscular tremors, drooling, fatigue, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and dyspnea.
Without immediate medical attention, the dog will succumb to the poisoning or enter into a coma.
These berries are so poisonous that dogs can suffer from poisoning by simply playing with them or their branches.
A 11.5 mg/kg dose of taxine alkaloids is enough to result in severe poisoning.
10. Cherry Laurel Berries
Cherry laurel (prunus laurocerasus), otherwise known as English laurel, is an evergreen variety of the Prunus cherry.
It is native to certain parts of Europe including Turkey, Bulgaria, and Albania.
The term “laurel” represents the plant’s similarity to the bay laurel, considered to be the most authentic laurel species from the Lauraceae plantae family.
Part of the plant’s foliage are tiny clustered berries that turn from green to red, to black, as they ripen from summer through fall.
Similarly to other parts of the cherry laurel, its berries are toxic to dogs.
They contain neurotoxins called grayanotoxins.
Consumption of cherry laurel berries can cause dogs serious health complications signified by diarrhea, hyper-salivation, low blood pressure, fatigue, docile behavior, vomiting, cardiovascular failure, and ultimately, death or coma.
11. Lily of the Valley Berries
The convallaria majalis is a sweet-smelling perennial herb native to North America and Eurasia.
The plant is particularly known for its glistening white flowers that resemble pendulous bells.
They grow in tightly-packed groups, creating a highly aesthetic ground cover mat with variegated color patterns.
In addition to the leaves’ glossy green and the flowers’ flawless white colors, the lily of the valley also produces bright red berries that add to its overall landscaping appeal.
However, while other parts of the plant are non-toxic, the berries contain multiple cardenolides, such as convallaria.
This is a heart-arresting steroidal toxin that disrupts a dog’s regular heartbeat upon ingestion.
Some clinical signs of lily of the valley berries poisoning in dogs include reduced blood pressure, seizures, vomiting, irregular arrhythmia, disorientation, and coma.
12. Privet Berries
Privet (ligustrum japonicum) is a flowering shrub in the Oleaceae plantae family.
It is also commonly referred to as the Wax Leaf due to its glossy leafy foliage.
The plant is often used as a living fence since it is highly tolerant to all weather and its variegated foliage color.
It has pearl white flowers and green leaves capable of growing up to 20 ft. high.
Additionally, the plant produces dark-blue berries in autumn.
These fruits are extremely poisonous to dogs as they contain terpenoid glycosides which induce gastrointestinal upset in pet canines.
Other notable signs of privet berries poisoning include amped heart rate, incoordination, and in acute cases, death.
13. Racemorse Asparagus Berries
Racemorse asparagus is a heavily-branched under-shrub that commonly grows in subtropical and tropical areas.
This deciduous plant produces small, white flowers in July and later fruits in September, producing sizable purplish berries.
The globe-shaped berries have a diameter of 6 mm and unlike most plant berries, they are three-lobed.
While these berries lack acute toxicity, they still pose a significant risk to dogs as they cause gastric upset if consumed in large amounts.
Notable clinical signs of dog poisoning from Racemorse asparagus berries include stomach pains, diarrhea, and vomiting.
14. Pyracantha Berries
Pyracantha species including the Pyracantha coccinea and Pyracantha angustifolia, alternatively called firethorns, are evergreen shrubs that are common landscaping fixtures.
The shrub is a top landscaping choice as its foliage includes stinging thorns that are ideal for fending off intruders.
Additionally, it has evergreen leaves, white flowers, and orange hue berries that offer high aesthetic appeal.
The berries, however, are mildly toxic to pets as they can bring about slight stomach upset if consumed in large amounts.
15. Jerusalem Cherry
Commonly used as a houseplant, Jerusalem cherry (solanum pseudocapsicum) is an evergreen shrub known for its erect and thick bushy foliage.
The plant produces orange-red berries that pose a significant risk to your dog.
These fruits contain large amounts of solanine, which causes gastrointestinal upset, seizures, shock, respiratory depression, and docility.
In some cases, the Jerusalem cherry berry can also induce gastrointestinal ulceration.
Poisonous Berries for Dogs: Final Thoughts
Evidently, there is an extensively wide variety of berries that are poisonous to dogs.
More worryingly, the majority of these berry varieties are commonly used for landscaping or as houseplants, increasing the risk of ingestion by our canine companions.
Dogs will always be dogs. It is almost impossible to prevent them from playing around with these toxic berries from time to time.
Therefore, the most prudent solution is to remain vigilant at all times.
Be watchful of your dog’s whereabouts and always be on the lookout for clinical signs of dog poisoning.
Do not hesitate to rush to the nearest vet for an emergency checkup if you notice any out-of-the-blue symptoms in your canine companion.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure!
Sable McNeil is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.