Is Hibiscus Poisonous to Dogs (Flowers & Leaves Toxic)?


The hibiscus is a popular and vibrant flower that many people have in their gardens to provide added beauty and brightness. It’s a quintessential tropical bloom that encapsulates all things summer.

The flowers can be up to 6 inches wide and 12 inches tall, and come in a variety of colors including white, red and peach. 

Despite the aesthetically pleasing nature of the hibiscus flower, there are some varieties of the bloom which can be extremely dangerous – and in some cases – even toxic to dogs.

So if you have your own pooch, it’s worth being extra vigilant when debating whether or not to plant hibiscus in your backyard. 

While it’s important to note that a lot of the species of the hibiscus flower aren’t toxic or poisonous to dogs, there are a number which unfortunately are. In fact, experts state that the root of the hibiscus plant will almost always be harmful in one way or another to a dog. 

I’m aware that this isn’t the most conclusive and helpful answer. After all, there’s over 650 species of hibiscus, so how on earth are you supposed to know which ones are poisonous to your dog?

The safest approach I’d recommend is to try and avoid all types of hibiscus with your dog, unless of course you’re confident in knowing which hibiscus plants pose the greatest risks. This however, isn’t the easiest thing to learn. 

Therefore, I’ve done a little bit of research, and put together some (hopefully) useful information about which hibiscus flowers are most dangerous to dogs.

Before you proceed however, it’s important to note that this information shouldn’t be taken as expert clinically-proven advice, it’s simply a collation of well-informed guidance I could find online.

So, if your dog has eaten hibiscus – even a form you don’t think is poisonous – you should always call a vet. 

Hibiscus Flowers to Avoid 

The most dangerous types of hibiscus flowers can all cause differing degrees of poisoning in dogs. The one however, which stands out more than most is the Rose of Sharon hibiscus plant.

This incidentally, is the species of hibiscus often found in houseplants, and the type which is commonly thought to cause serious poisoning in your pooch if ingested. 

There are a large number of entries online where veterinarians and other educated professionals have said that the Rose of Sharon is the hibiscus toxic to dogs.

It should therefore be considered the most poisonous, and avoided at all costs. Failure to do so could ultimately result in catastrophic consequences. 

Poisonous Parts of the Hibiscus

This all depends on the type of hibiscus your dog comes into contact with. The extent to which the flower, leaves and stem are poisonous will vary from species to species. 

However, as I mentioned earlier, the root of the hibiscus plant is almost always poisonous in one way or another to dogs and can make them sick.

So if your dog ingests a root of any hibiscus species, you should immediately consult your vet. Even if you believe the type of hibiscus to be safe. 

Is Hibiscus Poisonous to Dogs (Flowers & Leaves Toxic)

Why is Hibiscus Toxic to Dogs?

There remains a large number of unidentified poisonous properties in the roots and foliage of the hibiscus plant. However, one of the most prominent and well-known poisonous properties of the bloom can be found in the plant itself.

This is a property called asparagine, an amino acid that can cause several troublesome symptoms in your dog. Some of these unfavorable symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and internal blisters that can interfere with your dog’s ability to eat and drink. 

The aforementioned symptoms that manifest when your dog ingests asparagine are serious and should be taken extremely seriously. Therefore, you’ll need to contact your vet as soon as possible if you suspect your dog has consumed a form of hibiscus. 

Eating Hibiscus

This has been touched upon earlier, but it’s important to remember that while some forms of hibiscus are less dangerous than others for dogs, it doesn’t mean that it’s worth the risk of them eating it. 

Depending on the type of hibiscus plant your dog consumes, they may only experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms rather than more intense and serious reactions. However, irrespective of which kind of hibiscus it is, if they eat the root you’ll need to seek professional advice.

In addition to many of the symptoms being closely-linked to gastrointestinal upset, you may also find blood in your dog’s vomit or poop. This is often an indication of something serious.

The loss of fluids that occur with many of the other symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting can similarly prove fatal to your pooch. To avoid cases of severe gastrointestinal distress, call your vet immediately as soon as you notice something wrong. 

If possible, you should also try to take a sample of the hibiscus plant that your dog ate in order to help the vet more accurately assess the extent of poisoning your dog might have experienced.

They can carry out a thorough examination, including blood tests, to assess the damage and potentially rule out any other possible reasons for your dog’s symptoms. 

If it’s subsequently confirmed that your pooch is indeed suffering from hibiscus poisoning, there’s a standard procedure that your vet will begin which is commonly used to treat animal poisoning. This procedure includes: evacuation, detoxification, medication and observation. 

The evacuation stage involves inducing vomiting to try and get the poison out of your dog’s system. Detoxification then sees the vet incorporate intravenous (IV) fluids to attempt to flush their kidneys through.

The vet will also provide your dog with medication if they’re suffering the effects of any blisters or burns related to the ingestion of the poison.

Finally, they’ll either keep the dog in for further observation or give you detailed advice on how you can closely observe your dog at home. The latter is often more stress-free for your poorly pooch. 

Signs of Hibiscus Poisoning

The common signs of hibiscus poisoning range from mild and difficult to detect, to severe and obvious. The vast majority of the time these symptoms are closely-related to gastrointestinal upset due to the way in which the amino acid in hibiscus negatively reacts with your dog’s insides. 

Listed below are some of the most common symptoms of hibiscus poisoning to look out for. Taking note of them is vitally important, and if your dog exhibits any of these telling signs, you should look to seek urgent medical attention. 

  • Inability to eat or drink – not to be confused with a simple loss of appetite. 
  • A significant burning of the mouth or throat. While this may be difficult to notice if you don’t regularly check the inside of your dog’s mouth, a telling sign is if you catch your pooch excessively scratching at their mouth or face. 
  • Blistering or swelling of the tongue and mouth – this can also affect their ability to swallow. 
  • Pain or damage to the eyes can occur if hibiscus comes into direct contact with your dog’s eyes. 
  • Coughing and gagging
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Final Thoughts

There are several hundred different species of the vibrant hibiscus plant, which are commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas across the world.

The colorful nature and size of the hibiscus plant however, makes it an attractive-looking snack for a lot of dogs. As discussed above, this is a major problem for dog owners. 

Dogs work on instinct, and quite often their first instinct when they see a bright new plant in the garden is to investigate, and taste it. Given how poisonous some types of hibiscus can be to dogs, it’s essential that you try your best to keep the two far away from one another.

This includes avoiding the temptation to plant a few hibiscus blooms in your garden and backyard. If it means your pooch is safe, it’s worth the sacrifice right?  

After all, there are thousands of beautiful plants that aren’t toxic to dogs, so you can still be a pet owner and have a beautiful garden. There’s no reason why the two have to be mutually exclusive. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is Hibiscus Poisonous to Humans? 

No, hibiscus isn’t poisonous at all for humans. In fact, you can eat the flower straight from the plant if you wish, but it’s more commonly used for tea, relishes, jam and salads.

This doesn’t mean you can go out and eat any blossoms you see, you’ll still need to make sure that the plants haven’t been exposed to any kind of pesticides or insecticidal soaps. 

Many cultures drink hibiscus tea for its medicinal properties, with some claiming that it helps to reduce blood pressure, as well as lowering cholesterol levels.

The tea is red-colored and has a tart, almost sour-like flavor. It’s usually served hot, but is equally refreshing on a hot summer day. 

What is the Rose of China Poisoning? 

The Rose Of China is another name for the Rose of Sharon. This is a highly-poisonous hibiscus that can be toxic for dogs to ingest. It’s similarly toxic for cats and horses. The Rose of China is a flowering shrub native to Asia with large trumpet-shaped flowers. 

What Should I Do If There’s a Poisonous Substance on my Dog’s Fur? 

If you think that a toxic substance has made its way onto your dog’s fur, it’s important to stop them from grooming themselves. As well as this, it could also be beneficial to bathe them and attempt to wash the substance off.

However, make sure you check with your vet first about this as washing can sometimes cause the chemicals to be reabsorbed into the fur. 

Can you treat your dog yourself if they’ve been poisoned? 

No, you should always seek professional help. It may seem easier to try and solve the problem yourself if you have to potentially travel several miles to the vet, but your dog’s health should be a priority.

If your dog has ingested poison, it’s essential you call the vet and follow their instructions. More often than not this will involve taking your dog in for further examination, but at least they’ll be in the best hands possible.

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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