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Lilies are a dangers to pets - especially to cats

Havanese dog

Havanese dog Credit: Dreamstime

Q We just lost our beloved cat because she ate a lily flower. Could you remind your readers of the dangers of this plant to cats? Our hearts are broken but maybe a little education might save somebody else from this heartache.

— Shelley K., Tucson, Arizona

A I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for wanting to share your story to warn others. Lilies are a common cut-flower that are extremely poisonous to cats. Asiatic lilies, (including hybrids), day lilies, Japanese snow lilies, stargazer lilies, tiger lilies, and wood lilies all fall into this category. The entire plant is toxic. Exposure to any part of it, whether leaf, flower, pollen or even the water in the vase, is considered a medical emergency and leads to acute kidney failure in cats. These particular lilies are not fatal to dogs but can cause a serious digestive upset.

Exposure to the lily of the valley plant, however, is toxic to cats and dogs (and people) and can cause cardiac arrythmias and death. Gloriosa lily can cause multi-system failure in cats and dogs that chew on them. Calla lilies and peace lilies are less toxic but can cause respiratory distress and irritation to your pet's mouth, tongue, throat and esophagus.

The take-away here is simple: If you have pets, don't bring lilies into your home.

Q In a recent column, there was a question about a yellow lab that had not been fixed yet. (The reader wanted to know if neutering would calm the dog and reduce his urge to lift his leg). I had a Golden Retriever and did not get him fixed right away. He was pretty good about staying in the yard, but one day he was gone. It was a very tense three days looking for him. I am guessing he might have been bugging someone who had a female dog. Anyway, I got him neutered, and he never left the yard again on his own. As for dogs lifting their legs, my dog still lifted his leg after neutering. If they smell another dog's scent, they leave their "mark" to cover the other scent. I had heard that if they get loose, sniffing their scent may help them find their way back home. Whether that helped my dog get home, I will never know.

 — Liz P., Newington, Connecticut

A I can't find any scientific proof on this, but information all over the internet says a male dog can smell a female dog in heat from a mile away or more. Regardless of the distance, unneutered male dogs most definitely know when nearby neighborhood female dogs are in heat and will absolutely want to leave their homes and yards and refuse to answer to their names in order to track them down. As you now know, neutering a dog doesn't change his personality, but it does make him more content to stay in his yard or home. (I always say, if you want your dog to protect your home, neuter him because he is content staying at home.)

As for marking their territory, neutering dogs doesn't stop them from lifting their legs. But I do think if it's done early, it might reduce it. I have had four male dogs through the years and the only dog who lifted his leg to urinate and mark territory was the dog that had not been fixed until I adopted him at 5 years old. The other dogs, who had been fixed prior to 4 months old, lifted their legs to mark territory, but not to urinate in the yard.

Having said that, lifting legs to mark territory is a normal behavior for any dog regardless of whether they are neutered or not. I think some dogs are simply more inclined to do it than other dogs.

Q I would like to suggest fostering a rabbit.

— Marcee S., Las Vegas

A That's a great suggestion. There are all sorts of rescue groups and animal shelters that might want foster families to care for their abandoned rabbits until they find a forever home. Be a rabbit foster parent. This would be a great way to decide if a rabbit is right for your family.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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