Confusion abounds over the name of the Hosta plant. Known colloquially as "Hostas", "Plantain Lilies," "Funkia," "Corfu Lilies," and "Day Lilies", Hosta plataginea is the scientific name of this plant. This confusion can make it difficult for dog owners to research whether Hostas pose a danger to their family pet while planning their garden. This crucial information can be a valuable tool to avoid plants that pose a danger to the family pooch.
Hostas are used primarily as a shade-tolerant ground cover plant. They are herbaceous perennials with broad leaves that are green in color, but may be streaked with gold, tan or white stripes. Hosta plants grow in clumps ranging in size from two inches to nearly three feet in width. Hostas bloom in early to late summer, producing white or purple flowers on the ends of erect shoots.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Poison Control Center, Hosta plataginea is toxic to dogs, cats and horses. The toxic mechanism in this plant are saponins, which cause a frothy gas to form within the stomach of the dog. The leaves and flowers of this plant are toxic when ingested. There is no definitive information whether the root or seeds of this plant are also harmful.
Canine ingestion of hosta plants is rarely fatal. The effects produced are uncomfortable, resulting in extreme stomach upset. Depression is common among dogs who have eaten Hostas, usually accompanied by nausea. In cases where large amounts of Hostas have been eaten, vomiting and diarrhea are to be expected. The toxic effects of this plant directly correlate to the size of the dog and the amount of plant material ingested.
Consider whether your dog will have access to your garden space before planting Plantain Lilies. Do not allow your dog to roam your garden unsupervised. If you cannot ensure your dog's safety around these plants, find a suitable alternative to your needs that is non-toxic to dogs. The Ball fern, Davallia spp., is a shade tolerant ground cover with unique leaves is just one suitable alternative.
Know the scientific names of the plants you have purchased or are planning to purchase. Cross reference these names with a list of plants toxic to pets, such as the one published by the ASPCA.
If your dog presents signs of Hosta poisoning, or symptoms worsen, speak to a licensed veterinary medical professional at your earliest convenience. While death from Hosta poisoning is rare, it is possible, particularly in cases where a small dog has eaten a large amount of plant matter. Your veterinarian can advise you whether your dog needs to be brought in for emergency treatment.