An herbaceous ornamental, peonies are often used around homes as parts of ornamental landscaping. While some varieties can be grown into trees, most grow as low bushes. If you have pets, think twice before using them in your yard because they can be harmful if ingested.
Peonies offer several attractive qualities that make them popular for use in yards and gardens. Their dark-green foliage draws visual interest with their compound lobes. While it might take a new plant a few years to begin growing, once it does it produces brightly hued, intensely scented flowers. Most peony plants produce large amounts of flowers every year, ensuring beauty in your yard.
Peony plants contain a compound called paeonol. When a dog, cat or livestock animal like horse eats part of a peony plant, the paeonol can make it ill. Typical symptoms include signs of gastric distress, usually characterized by diarrhea or vomiting. Your pet might also lose energy and interest in interacting with you and other members of your household. This lassitude, or depression, is also a sign of toxic exposure to peonies.
Most animals exposed to a toxic plant do not eat enough to be seriously injured. If your pet develops signs of gastric upset, make sure it has access to the outdoors along with plenty of fresh water. Most pets recover in a day or two with no lasting ill effects. If you pet is not drinking water, refuses food or if the vomiting or diarrhea last for more than two days, contact your veterinarian’s office. During your call, ask if you should bring in a part of the peony plant your pet ate; it might make determining the course of treatment easier for the veterinarian.
If you do have peonies in your yard, you can take step to protect both them and your pets. Build a barrier around the peony plant to keep your pets away. Picket fencing or chicken wire will prevent pets from getting close enough to munch on the plant. If you have a dog run in your yard, move peonies to another area to keep them well away from your dog. If you bring a peony plant indoors, place it on a high shelf where it will be well out of the reach of any curious pets.