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Succulents are an all-time favorite of many plant enthusiasts. That’s mainly because they’re easy to take care of and come in various shapes.
That said, there are a few succulent species that can be poisonous—not only to humans, but also to pets. Some examples of such plants are the Kalanchoe and Euphorbia.
In the following guide, our focus will be on the beautiful Kalanchoe. Fun fact: Kalanchoe is a family of over 120 species, including the Felt Bush and the Devil’s Backbone.
So, is Kalanchoe poisonous?
Kalanchoe plants belong to the Crassulaceae family. These species encompass stonecrops, orpines, perennial herbs, low shrubs, and succulents.
Crassulaceae plants have African origins and most members of this family come from Madagascar, including Kalanchoe.
With that in mind, there are only a few dangerously poisonous plants that originated from Africa and that pose a health risk to both humans and animals.
While Kalanchoe is classified as poisonous, they’re not as big a threat as their fellow Crassulaceae succulents, such as the Crassula Ovata (the Jade Tree).
Kalanchoe plants can be harmful when ingested or eaten by humans or pets. In fact, all parts of a Kalanchoe are poisonous, even the water in which the plant sits.
Luckily though, it’s quite rare for a Kalanchoe-poisoning case to be fatal—unless consumed in big amounts or more than once.
As we’ve established, the Kalanchoe and its variants are all labeled as toxic and mildly poisonous plants.
Each member of the Kalanchoe family appears friendly due to their colorful and uniquely shaped flowers, however, they also hide an extensive amount of toxins.
For instance, the primary toxins found in Kalanchoe succulents are known as bufadienolides and cardenolides. They’re cardiac glycosides and are present in the plant’s entire body.
From stem to leaves, this concentrated amount of cardiotoxins can lead to both acute and chronic Kalanchoe poisoning if not treated immediately.
Wherever Kalanchoe plants can be found in the wild, there’s a likely possibility of encountering multiple livestock deaths and poisoning cases.
Take Australia and South Africa, for example. The cattle there commonly face Kalanchoe’s poisonous effects since the species is quite widespread in those regions.
A Kalanchoe is most poisonous during the late winter and spring months, or in other words, when its flowers are blooming.
Why is that? Because flowering seasons for Kalanchoe variants mean that their parts will contain a higher percentage of cardiotoxins than normal.
Additionally, Kalanchoe plants need to be handled with care. While it hasn’t yet been proven that the sap from the Kalanchoe family is harmful, one scratch from its leaves may poison you.
Simply put, it’s better to use gardening gloves when dealing with your Kalanchoe, especially if you’re planning to repot the plant. The Kalanchoe roots are where all of its toxins are most concentrated.
In the case of cattle and sheep, make sure that they stay clear from any Kalanchoe plants nearby. Keep in mind though, that there are a few factors that’ll push your livestock to eat Kalanchoe, including:
- Animals have been subjected to recent stressful conditions.
- They’ve been moved to a new environment.
- You’ve traveled with them through infested wastelands.
- The unavailability of feed due to surrounding weather issues.
It’s interesting to learn that the same poison found in the Kalanchoe family can also be noted in the skin of the Bufo or the European toad.
How do these various cardiac glycosides affect you once they’re ingested, however?
For starters, both bufadienolide and cardenolide, the main toxins found in Kalanchoe, are a type of cardiotoxin. They’re classified as such because they can cause severe heart damage in the long term.
The way these toxins work is that their poison remains passive in your abdomen, meanwhile it’s being gradually absorbed. Depending on the percentage of bufadienolide or cardenolide in the bloodstream, the poisoned body remains at a high risk of cardiac arrest.
Not only that, but bufadienolide glycosides attach themselves to units of the myocardium, skeletal muscle, kidney, and red blood cells (RBCs).
Cardenolides’ molecules are particularly harmful to animals that consume Kalanchoe flowers as well. These cardiotoxins are deemed heart-arresting and the higher the dose, the stronger the effect will be on the pet’s central nervous system.
Kalanchoe poisoning appears differently in animals than in humans. Plus, the symptoms will differ depending on how much of the plant was ingested and which parts of the succulent were consumed.
Let’s begin with what happens when a human eats Kalanchoe. Two of the most common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, but that’s only if you’ve consumed a variety of Kalanchoe that doesn’t contain cardenolides or bufadienolides.
On the other hand, certain Kalanchoe plants, such as the Devil’s Backbone, can cause erratic heartbeats when ingested. In that case, we recommend checking with a Poison Control specialist to help control the situation.
Alternatively, livestock and domestic pets are more susceptible to Kalanchoe’s poisonous effects. The main symptoms start with gastric distress, which manifests itself as loss of appetite and diarrhea.
If the infected animal isn’t treated within the first 24 hours of consuming the plant, it’ll begin drooling saliva or urine. It may also go into cardiac shock or experience rapid heartbeats.
The lethal dose of Kalanchoe for animals is seven grams of flowers or 40 grams of leaves. Acute Kalanchoe poisoning in cattle lasts only a day before they die, while a chronic case would take up to five days until the infected animal passes away.
A Kalanchoe is more toxic to pets than it is to humans, mainly since animals are more sensitive to the poisonous elements present in the plant.
As such, it’s important that you know what type of Kalanchoe you have. Why? Because some Kalanchoe varieties can lead to the untimely death of your domestic animal.
With that in mind, below, we go through how toxic Kalanchoe plants will affect both cats and dogs.
To begin with, the ten most common Kalanchoe varieties that harm dogs include:
- Bryophyllum Costantinii
- Felt Bush
- Madagascar Widow’s Thrill
- Devil’s Backbone
- Mother of Millions
- Donkey Ears
- Lavender Scallops
- Christmas Tree plant
- Cathedral Bells
- Blooming Boxes
If you have one of the aforementioned Kalanchoe members, it’s best that you put the pot on a high shelf as these succulents are highly poisonous.
In the unfortunate event that your lil’ pup has already found its way to your toxic Kalanchoe, then you should look out for the following signs that show your dog has been infected:
- An abnormal heart rate (is too slow or too erratic)
- Diarrhea, flatulence, and signs of gastrointestinal distress
- Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
- Seizures, tremors, and sudden unconsciousness
- Lethargy, depression, or inactiveness
- Dilated pupils and increased saliva drooling
These symptoms should appear only a few hours after your pup has consumed Kalanchoe leaves or flowers. If they’re followed with signs of heart trouble, then your pet is at risk of dying.
In other words, it’s advised that you check in with your local veterinarian as soon as your dog starts showing signs of being poisoned.
Kalanchoe varieties are mildly toxic to household cats. The same types we went through above are just as harmful to cats as they are to dogs.
In fact, cats and dogs share a few poisoning symptoms. This makes it easier for those of you who have both pets at home.
For instance, small amounts of Kalanchoe irritate your cat’s stomach and causes inner intestinal issues. The main signs include nausea, diarrhea, flatulence, and vomiting.
Luckily, a simple case of Kalanchoe poisoning in cats can be quickly handled. If they haven’t yet swallowed the leaves or flowers yet, you can force the Kalanchoe out of their mouth using your fingers.
Often, your cat will end up chewing on the Kalanchoe for a while before swallowing. This actually increases the severity of the case.
Simply put, the effects of the plant’s poison will last longer and be stronger than just a mild poisoning.
If so, promptly contact your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA). It does no good to wait for your cat to puke it out, simply because, in a few hours, they might end up experiencing seizures, tremors, and heart arrhythmias.
Is Kalanchoe poisonous? There are 120 Kalanchoe varieties, most of which are mildly toxic, while the rest of them can cause severe damage to the heart.
A good tell to know the difference is to learn whether your Kalanchoe plant contains amounts of bufadienolides and cardenolides or not. These cardiotoxins have a lasting effect on the intestines, kidneys, central nervous system, and heart.
That’s why it’s important to mindfully handle Kalanchoe plants with the utmost care and keep them away from your pets. In case you, your kids, or your domestic animal has ingested Kalanchoe, consult with a healthcare professional.