Is Coleus Toxic to Cats or Dogs?

Written by Phil Dubley
Updated: November 15, 2022
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Coleus is a popular ornamental plant, thanks to its brightly colored foliage and low-maintenance requirements. It is grown in many homes, but can it be toxic to cats or dogs? Can you have these plants around the house so your pets can access them freely?

Coleus is definitely toxic, not only for both cats and dogs but also rabbits and many small animals. Because of the essential oils segregated by the leaves, even rubbing against the plant’s leaves and flowers can cause severe irritation in the skin and mouth of your pets. While the plant’s overall toxicity is still being debated, children and pets that ingest it will likely suffer gastrointestinal problems, allergic reactions, and depression. In extremely rare cases, it can even be fatal!

Some dogs are less susceptible to it and will not present symptoms after ingesting the plant. However, this will depend on each dog, and the specific plant species, so we recommend being cautious and not allowing small animals and children to go near any coleus plants.

How Do Pets Intoxicate With Coleus?

Cats are pretty picky regarding food, and they’re not likely to eat a plant that will be toxic for them. However, they’re also very curious and get bored easily, which may make them try to chew the plant’s leaves or ingest its seeds. Also, if your cat roams freely outside or you keep coleus plants inside your house, they’re very likely to rub against them, as they do with many surfaces when they want to leave their pheromones on them, marking their territory.

Dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to chew and ingest all types of herbs, especially when they’re puppies. If you have coleus plants in your yard or garden, your dog will likely come in contact with them, as they tend to run around and play during their early stages of life.

Symptoms of Intoxication With Coleus

When a cat or a dog is exposed to coleus, the first symptom is irritation or allergic reactions in the skin, which are caused by the essential oils in the plant. But in addition to this, your pet may exhibit a wide array of other symptoms, including:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea (which may also contain blood)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Physical weakness and lethargy
  • Body tremors
  • Lack of coordination
  • Depression
  • Drooling, or hypersalivation
  • Low body temperature or hypothermia

Ingesting too much coleus can result in violent seizures, coma, and even death, though this is very rare.

What To Do if Your Pet Is Intoxicated With Coleus

If you see your pet exhibiting any symptoms of intoxication, the best thing to do is consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible. Also, take a small piece of the plant with you. This sample should allow the professional to identify the plant and start the proper treatment. In some cases, the veterinarian will ask for a sample of vomit or feces to verify the reason for intoxication, so if you can, make sure to collect that and bring it, too.

Coelus intoxication may result in breathing problems and kidney or digestive problems in the long term if left untreated. For this reason, it’s recommended to take the animal to the vet as soon as possible to be treated urgently.

Remember that coleus is an umbrella term for many different plants, and they have different toxicity levels and may require different treatments. Generally, the pet will have to be rehydrated and have some medications administered to clear its digestive tract, but additional treatments may be necessary for certain plant species.

Also, make sure to remove the plant from your garden or your house or place them where your pets will not have easy access to them. You can also educate them not to go near them, but this method will take longer.

Are All Coleus Plants Toxic?

Not every coleus species is toxic, but most of them can cause severe irritations and other health issues in your children and pets, so it is best to keep them away from the plants. 

Research on the toxicity of coleus plants has not been exhaustive, so we still don’t know much about it. There is still no consensus regarding which parts of the plants are more toxic. Some consider that only the roots are poisonous, while others claim that toxins are in their leaves and flowers.

It is best to be cautious and prevent our loved ones from having contact with all coleus plants. Even if they’re unlikely to cause serious health issues, simply ingesting their seeds can cause adverse reactions and make them ill.

Want to learn even more about this amazing plant? Check out our complete guide to coleus here.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Cheryl Ann Studio/

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About the Author

My name is Phil Dubley, I am a Canadian living in Argentina, but tomorrow I could be writing from anywhere else. Throughout my life, I've been in love with nature: plants, animals, people, and everything in it. I have a passion for wild animals - snakes, sharks, and felines have always fascinated me. As for plants, I love succulents. I have a collection of over ten different varieties on my terrace. Also, I use the hemp plant as CBD oil for sleep: it has been the only thing to tackle my insomnia effectively. I want to share all my knowledge about the areas I am passionate about with others who feel the same way. I hope you enjoy my articles, and in each one, you learn something new!

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