Monstera plants originated in the tropical rainforests of South America. Also known as ceriman or Swiss cheese plant, due to the holes in their leaves, they make relatively easy-to-care-for houseplants and can add a tropical vibe to any room. Unfortunately, these plants can also pose a health risk to pets, though a milder one than other toxic plants such as oleanders.
You may be worried because your dog ate part of your monstera plant, or you may be curious about whether or not a monstera is safe to have in your house if you have a dog. In either case, read on to find out why these plants may not be the best to keep in a house with a dog.
Monstera’s Defense: Calcium Oxalate Crystals
Monstera plants make less than ideal housemates for families with dogs—or any other critter likely to try to nibble on the plant—primarily because they contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause adverse reactions when consumed.
These crystals are found in every part of the plant including the monstera leaf and stem, with the exception of the fully ripened fruit of the Monstera deliciosa. However, monsteras kept as houseplants are very unlikely to fruit, and even when they do, the unripe fruit is full of calcium oxalate crystals.
While calcium oxalate crystals can form in different shapes, the crystals in monsteras are raphides, which look like bunches of needles. These needle-like raphides work as a defense mechanism, discouraging animals from eating the monstera: damage to the plant causes them to release, triggering pain and deterring animals from taking another bite.
When dogs bite part of a monstera plant, the calcium oxalate crystals become embedded in their mouths; depending on how the plant was bitten and how much the dog ingested, the area around the mouth and the throat may also become irritated.
Though Monstera deliciosa is the most popular plant of the Monstera genus to be kept as houseplants, all monstera plants contain this defense mechanism, and as such, do not make great houseplants to keep within munching distance of your pooch.
Additionally, the sap of a monstera plant can cause skin irritation in both dogs and humans. Sap may appear on the leaves or may be present in any part of the plant that is broken off; for this reason, it is a good idea to wear gloves when handling a monstera and to prevent pets from brushing up against it.
What to Do if Your Dog Ate a Monstera Plant
If your dog ingests part of a monstera plant, you may see them pawing at their mouth or otherwise indicating pain around their face. In addition to causing pain and irritation, calcium oxalate crystals embedded in a dog’s mouth can also cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, excess drooling, choking, or swelling of the mouth, tongue, or throat.
Though all of these symptoms of poisoning can be alarming, the last one can be especially dangerous. If the swelling is very extreme, your dog may become unable to breathe, necessitating an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
Your dog’s age, size, and preexisting health conditions may make a difference in how effectively their body can process ingesting part of a monstera. Thankfully, the ingestion of a monstera plant is not generally fatal for pets. However, a dog that has eaten or bitten part of a monstera plant should be closely monitored for signs of any extreme adverse reaction, including oral irritation that worsens.
It is also a good idea to encourage your pet to drink some water in order to try to soothe the pain or wash out some of the crystals, though this is unlikely to fully alleviate their discomfort.
There is also nothing wrong with taking a dog who has ingested monstera to the vet as a precautionary measure, even if it seems like they did not eat much of the plant. Even if the reaction is not life-threatening, your vet would likely be able to help your dog manage the pain.
Additionally or alternatively, you could call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center—(888)426-4425—or the Pet Poison Helpline—(855)764-7661—for support and advice, though it is important to note that both services charge $75 for a consult.
As previously mentioned, your dog is unlikely to continue chewing on the plant after an exploratory bite due to the pain they will experience from the calcium oxalate crystals. The reaction sets in quickly (about 30 seconds) so they are likely to make the association between cause and effect; once a dog has experienced that reaction, they are unlikely to want to try to eat the plant again.
That being said, even if your dog has previously bitten a monstera plant and is unlikely to try to get at it again, it is probably a good idea to move it out of nibbling range just to be safe.
Can I Have Both a Dog and a Monstera Plant?
Keeping a monstera plant in a house with a dog can be risky for the dog’s health. Even so, there are some ways you may be able to mitigate risk in order to safely keep this popular houseplant.
For instance, if the plant can be hung or placed out of reach of a curious pup, it is unlikely to cause much harm; however, care will need to be taken to ensure that any leaves that drop from the plant are also out of eating reach.
Even if your dog is not prone to chewing on or eating plants, it is a good idea to keep any potentially risky vegetation out of their mouth’s reach. If your dog did happen to take a bite of your monstera plant, it is quite likely that the painful experience will discourage them from doing it again, but it would be better to avoid this suffering in the first place.
Like all potentially toxic human foods and household substances, it is important to keep your dog from having access to them at all. Just as you baby-proof your home for infants and toddlers, you need to do the same for your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If my dog bites my monstera plant, will the plant be okay?
A: Once your furry pal is safe, you may also wonder about the health of your bitten plant. Thankfully, monstera plants are very hardy and should be okay, though it is a good idea to remove the damaged part because it will not mend itself and it may produce skin-irritating sap. Additionally, it would be advisable to move it out of your dog’s reach.
Q: Can monstera cause bladder stones?
A: Monstera plants contain calcium oxalate crystals and canine kidney or bladder stones may also be made of calcium oxalate crystals, so it seems like the two may be logically connected. However, the calcium oxalate crystals that make up kidney stones are formed by the combining of calcium and oxalate, not the direct ingestion of the compound.
If a dog has bladder stones, their vet may suggest modifying their diet to avoid excess calcium and oxalate-heavy foods, such as spinach, nuts, and green beans. Additionally, special care will need to be taken to keep the dog appropriately hydrated.
Q: What other names are there for a monstera plant?
A: The monstera plant and its many varieties are referred to by a number of names, including cheese plant, Swiss cheese plant, hurricane plant, delicious monster, Mexican breadfruit, windowleaf, and fruit salad plant.
Q: Is a Monstera Deliciosa the same plant as a Split-Leaf Philodendron?
A: No. Although they look similar when they are young, these two plants are of a different genus and species. However, split leaf philodendrons do contain the same insoluble calcium oxalate crystals as the monstera, and pose the same toxic risks to dogs if they ingest the plant.