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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - November 26, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Medicinal Plants, Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Are Viguiera dentate leaves toxic to dogs?
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Many dogs on the Turkey Creek Nature Trail in Emma Long Metropolitan Park love to snack on the leaves of the Viguiera Dentata plants. The leaves SEEM to be harmless. I am writing to request information regarding the toxicity, if any, of these plants that make my dogs very happy! Perhaps these plants could be herbally helpful if they are not harmful.

ANSWER:

Authorities do not agree on why dogs eat vegetation from time to time.  Some experts think that it is just a frolicsome thing to snap at leaves as they pass.  Others feel that a dog somehow knows that leaves of a certain plant species can satisfy a need.  A dog that eat grass or other green leaves often throws up the contents of its stomach shortly after, suggesting that the vegetable matter facilitates the vomiting up of material that may be upsetting the animal's stomach.

Two of my dogs once developed a habit of eating one or two leaves of a particular Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana) plant.  I was very concerned because Lantana leaves are extremely toxic, especially if eaten in sizeable numbers.  But each time I caught a dog nibbling this plant (and never another species) and restrained him, I noticed that he often vomited but behaved perfectly normally afterwards.

Experiences like these make me wonder if animals recognize plants that can remedy physical problems.  Viguiera dentata (Sunflower goldeneye) could be one of these plants.  Infusions of V. dentata are used as a folk medicine in Mexico to treat baby rash.  Recent chemical analyses have shown the presence in V. dentata of several terpenoid compounds which have antibacterial activity.  But nothing particularly toxic was found.

It is therefore unlikely that V. dentata is especially toxic.  Whether eating it is herbally helplful has to be anybody's guess at the present time.

 

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