The rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is a tropical evergreen that has become popular as a houseplant thanks to its glossy, thick leaves and low care requirements. It is hardy grown outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. Unfortunately for pet owners, rubber plant is toxic to dogs. Some other plant species that are commonly referred to as rubber plant can also cause poisoning.
Ingesting part of the rubber plant may cause a loss of appetite, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, while rubbing up against the plant may cause skin inflammation. The dog may aggravate the condition by biting or scratching at its irritated skin, potentially inviting a secondary infection. The ASPCA notes that Japanese rubber plant (Crassula arborescens), hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 can cause vomiting, depression and a loss of coordination, while baby rubber plant (Peperomia obutsifolia), hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11 may cause a mild stomachache. Variegated Ficus elastica cultivars may also cause stomach upset. The ASPCA also lists Indian rubber plant (Ficus benjamina), hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11 as being toxic to both cats and dogs.
Remove any leftover plant matter from your dog's mouth and contact your veterinarian. You can also call the ASPCA 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435; a consultation fee may be charged. In case of diarrhea or vomiting, provide your dog with plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Help prevent poisoning by keeping known toxic plants out of your home. Cornell University notes that dogs sometimes chew on plant matter because of a lack of fiber in their diets. Add bran flakes or increase vegetable fiber to your dog's food to see if this helps curb the desire to eat plants.
3. Human Poisoning
Ficus elastica is listed as being non-toxic to humans by the California Poison Control System. However, CPCS states that non-toxic plants can cause vomiting in humans, and that children can gag or choke on a piece of plant matter. If you're concerned because a child or someone else has ingested a piece of rubber plant, contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers by calling the free, 24-hour Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.
For those looking for a nontoxic indoor foliage plant, cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) may fit the bill. Listed as nontoxic by the ASPCA, cast iron plant produces leathery, dark green leaves up to 20 inches long. It grows best in low light conditions, preferring a well-draining, fertile soil. It is not picky about moisture and thrives on neglect. Cast iron plant may also be grown outdoors in a shady location in USDA zones 7 to 10.