Are Hibiscus Poisonous To Dogs Or Cats?

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: March 31, 2022
Image Credit Heinsdorff Jularlak/Shutterstock.com
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Cats and dogs are known to eat plants and grass. So, while our fur babies are out in the garden, we must watch out for poisonous plants.

Hibiscus is a 300-species mallow family member. Hibiscuses are native to all forty-eight contiguous states and come in many varieties. Their types range from evergreen to deciduous, native to exotic. They thrive in eastern wetlands and marshes and western dry rocky terrain. So, how dangerous are these to canine or feline companions? Keep reading to find out!

Are Hibiscus Poisonous To Dogs Or Cats?

hibiscus
Most hibiscus species are not poisonous to dogs and cats.

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While most hibiscus species are safe for pets, some hibiscus varieties can be potentially hazardous to your pet. Hundreds of hibiscus species exist, some of which are hardy perennials and others of which are tropical plants.

Even though they all belong to the Hibiscus genus, different hibiscus species require a special growth zone for successful planting. So, your hibiscus variety may vary according to the soil and climate in your area. To see what zone you are in, you can visit the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Hibiscus moscheutos, a native of the United States, as well as Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and Hibiscus syriacus, two exotics, are the most popular and well-known species of hibiscus. The toxicology of these flowers for dogs and cats is detailed below.

Hibiscus Syriacus (The Rose of Sharon)

Hibiscus Syriacus
The Hibiscus syriacus is the only hibiscus that may be harmful to pets.

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While some websites claim that Hibiscus syriacus, or rose of Sharon, is harmful to both cats and dogs, there is no true consensus. The ASPCA and AR Agriculture, two respected organizations, both say that this hibiscus type is safe for pets.

Some accounts claim that if a dog or cat consumes a large amount of rose of Sharon hibiscus, they may develop nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This is the only hibiscus that may be harmful to pets.

Appearance

The rose of Sharon hibiscus has woody stems that don’t die back in the winter. It flowers profusely, although its flowers are small (2-3 inches wide). Pink, purple, blue, or white flowers are common.

Growing Zone

USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9 are ideal for cultivating rose of Sharon shrubs. With full sun and well-drained soil, the rose of Sharon is ideal. Growing older shrubs in regions that do not get full sun exposes them to fungal harm.

Hibiscus Moscheutos (Hardy Hibiscus)

Hibiscus Moscheutos
The Hibiscus moscheutos has large flowers that range from six to eight inches wide.

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No sources raise the alarm for Hibiscus moscheutos, also known as hardy hibiscus, so it’s likely that these are not dangerous if your dog or cat nibbles on them.

Appearance

Known colloquially as “dinner plate hibiscus” because of its large flowers, the hardy hibiscus flowers can reach a width of 6 to 8 inches. They come in various shades, from red to pink to lavender to white.

Growing Zone

Gardeners can grow Hibiscus moscheutos in USDA plant hardiness zones 4–9.

Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis (Tropical Hibiscuses)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is not known to be poisonous to dogs or cats.

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The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (tropical hibiscus), often called Chinese Hibiscus, is not known to be poisonous to dogs or cats.

Appearance

Compared to perennials, their tropical flowers are smaller at 4 to 6 inches, and they come in a variety of colors, from orange to red to pink to yellow.

Growing Zone

Chinese hibiscus is a tropical evergreen shrub that is hardy to USDA zones 10-11, where it is best planted in wet, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun. Those who live in different climate zones may be able to cultivate them as indoor houseplants and then bring them outside for the summer months.

Symptoms of Rose of Sharon Hibiscus Poisoning in Pets

Pets who have been poisoned by the rose of Sharon show the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss

The rose of Sharon hibiscus root, according to some studies, is highly toxic and can cause more serious symptoms, such as:

  • Mouth or throat stinging or burning
  • Corneal discomfort or damage
  • Gagging and coughing
  • Mouth or tongue swelling or blistering
  • Discomfort in swallowing

Both the blooms and the stems of this plant are toxic to cats, according to the Charlotte Humane Society.

What To Do If Your Dog Or Cat Has Eaten Hibiscus

Consult a veterinarian right away if any of the above signs appear in your cat or dog. It is possible that your pet has ingested something harmful, even if the rose of Sharon is not to blame.

How To Avoid Hibiscus Poisoning in Pets

It is best to keep pets away from the rose of Sharon hibiscus as much as possible.

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For your pets’ sake, and considering contradicting reports, try to keep them away from the rose of Sharon hibiscus as much as possible. Avoiding planting hibiscus of this type is one way to achieve this goal. Many other types of plants have not been linked to negative effects on pets, including the tropical or hardy hibiscuses mentioned above. Growing these varieties is the safest alternative.

If your growing zone is best suited for the rose of Sharon, and you opt to plant this type, keep an eye on your pets while they are in the garden. To try and keep animals away from the plant, you can use shells or thorny vines scattered about the area.

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.