AUSTIN (KXAN) — With peak bluebonnet season underway, many Central Texans are seeking out patches of the state wildflower for family photos or portraits of their pets. But some might ask themselves: Are bluebonnets toxic for animals?
We took that question to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, as well as local veterinarians. Leslie Uppinghouse, lead horticulturalist at the Wildflower Center, told KXAN all parts of the flower are toxic — but the plants are a biggest risk to horses, cattle and other herbivores grazing in fields.
“Although they are toxic, animals are not drawn to them in terms of grazing,” she said. “So there is not a high risk in terms of a draw and the [poisonousness] of it.”
The impact on an animal is also dependent on their size and how much they consume, Uppinghouse added. Beyond that, she said residents should be mindful of snakes, wasps and scorpions that might be hiding in bluebonnet patches before posing for a photoshoot.
Dr. Rachel Gordon, an associate veterinarian with Austin Pets Alive!, said pets like dogs and cats are naturally repelled by bluebonnets due to their extreme bitter taste. Because of that, she said it’s far more unlikely that household pets would ingest enough to become a health risk.
“[The bitter taste] is kind of its own natural protection for our pets, thankfully, so that they’re not able to get sick,” she said, adding: “It’s always a good thing to know and be aware of, but thankfully, not too much of a concern.”
Dr. Helen Rudnick, medical director at the Austin Urban Vet Center, added if a household pet were to ingest small quantities of the wildflower, pet owners might notice possible upset stomach symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. With grazing agricultural animals, a higher concentration could result in some neurological impacts like twitching.
In the event of any kind of pet emergency, Rudnick encouraged pet owners contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ animal poison control hotline. The ASPCA Poison Control Center is available 24/7 and can be reached by calling 888-426-4435.
For more information on poisonous plants, household products and human foods to avoid with pets, click online.