Is Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) Toxic to Dogs?

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is toxic to dogs. The toxic principles are insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that penetrate the oral mucosa causing intense burning and pain and an irritant sap.

What is peace lily?

Family Araceae
Botanical name Spathiphyllum spp.
Common names Peace lily, White flag, Mauna loa plant
Leaf colour Green, green and white (variegated)
Flower colour White
Toxicity Toxic to dogs
Toxic properties Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals and irritant sap
Toxic parts All parts
Level of toxicity Mild to moderate

Peace lily is an ornamental evergreen plant popular for its ease of care, rich green foliage and long-lasting white flowers. Native to the tropical rainforests of Colombia and Venezuela, the peace lily is not a true lily, but are members of the Aracae (Arum) family. The common name peace lily refers to the stark white spathe (flower).

The peace lily enjoys a position with filtered light and has moderate water needs.

Toxicity

The toxic principle is needle-sharp insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which form in bundles known as raphides and an irritant sap. When the dog chews on any part of the plant, the crystals penetrate the oropharynx, leading to intense pain and burning. While rare, peace lily ingestion can the throat to swell, and difficulty breathing.

Dermal or ocular contact with the irritant sap can cause pain, redness, and irritation.

The University of California class peace lily as 3 and 4.

  • Oxalates: The juice or sap of these plants contains oxalate crystals. These needle-shaped crystals can irritate the skin, mouth, tongue, and throat, resulting in throat swelling, breathing difficulties, burning pain, and stomach upset. Call the Poison Control Center or your doctor if any of these symptoms appear following ingestion of plants.
  • Dermatitis: The juice, sap, or thorns of these plants may cause a skin rash or irritation. Wash the affected area of skin with soap and water as soon as possible after contact. The rashes may be very serious and painful. Call the Poison Control Center or your doctor if symptoms appear following contact with the plants.
Calcium oxalate crystals
Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals

Clinical signs

Symptoms of peace lily exposure depend on the type of exposure.

Ingestion

All parts of the peace lily contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which penetrate the delicate tissues of the mouth and throat.

  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue and throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vocalisation

Skin contact

The irritant sap can cause mild dermatitis.

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Itching

First aid

If it is safe to do so, carefully remove any remaining plant matter from the dog’s mouth and rinse it out with water. Offer a drink ice chips or a drink of something tasty such as milk or tuna juice.

Treatment

Most dogs will stop chewing peace lily quickly due to the pain they experience. The majority of cases are mild and self-limiting, although they can look quite alarming to pet owners. It is always recommended that a veterinarian or pet poison helpline be contacted in any case where a dog has ingested a toxin.

If the dog is only experiencing mild symptoms, the veterinarian may recommend a wait-and-see approach. Symptoms will usually resolve within a few hours.

Dogs experiencing difficulty breathing should see an emergency veterinarian as this is life-threatening.

There is no antidote to peace lily ingestion and treatment is aimed at managing symptoms. This may include flushing the mouth to remove any remaining plant matter. Gastroprotectants for dogs who have consumed a large volume of plant matter.

Steroids will be administered to dogs with swelling to reduce inflammation, and oxygen therapy may be required for dogs experiencing difficulty breathing.

Prognosis

Most dogs will recover quickly from peace lily ingestion.