Yes, boxwood plants are toxic to dogs, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. But, they may not be as toxic as your expect. Boxwood is a common ornamental plant that many people enjoy having in the yard. Unfortunately, if you dog gets curious and eats it, they could be seriously ill. Here’s what you should know about boxwood plants and their toxicity.

Symptoms of Boxwood Poisoning

Boxwood is a common ornamental tree that homeowners often cut into lovely shapes. Unfortunately, the plant contains at least three alkaloids that are toxic to various animals, including dogs. Those toxins are buxine, cyclobuxine and cycloprotobuxine. If your dog ingests enough of this plant, they may experience these symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty breathing

It is unlikely that your dog would experience severe reactions to boxwood plants unless they eat a large amount of it, taking into account their size. While boxwood is considered a moderate toxin for dogs, there is no safe amount for them to eat. You should consult with a vet immediately if you suspect that your dog has eaten any boxwood.

Boxwood is More Dangerous for Horses and Cows

While boxwood is toxic for dogs, it is extremely toxic for horses and cows. This is likely why you’ve heard about boxwood as a very dangerous plant. Horses that ingest even relatively small amounts of these trees may die from their toxicity. This is especially a concern as horses are grazers and much more likely to take a sample of a tree than a dog might.

Should You Risk Growing Boxwood?

Most people who own horses will not grow boxwood on the property. Should you take the same precautions as a dog owner? That depends on your personal priorities. If you feel it is very unlikely your dog will eat the boxwood, and you value the plant for its ornamental value, you might choose to have boxwood on the property anyway. If you do, you should at least be aware of the symptoms of poisoning and take precautions to keep your dog away from the plant.

What Should You Grow Instead?

What if you’ve decided against boxwood? There are plenty of other ornamental trees that you might prefer to grow. If you’re looking for a replacement for boxwood specifically, then you might be interested in an evergreen tree, such as:

  • Bottlebrush: Adding some color and some year-round green is simple with bottlebrush, a brightly flowering tree which is safe for pets.
  • Pines: Most pine trees are safe for pets to be near and even ingest in small quantities.
  • Spruce: If you want a tree that is simple to trim in fun shapes, just like a boxwood, many ornamental varieties of spruce are a good choice. If left alone to grow into their natural shape, they add a Christmas-tree vibe to your yard year-round.
  • Fir: Most varieties of fir are also fine for pets to be around. They often look more sparse than spruce trees, but they still add greenery to your space.

There are many more pet friendly shrubs that may work for you.