Dog owners have been warned to be on the lookout for a potentially poisonous plant after it was linked to multiple pet deaths in Northern Ireland.
The hemlock plant contains alkaloids that attack the nervous system and can cause respiratory distress, paralysis, and death in pets. It is also harmful to humans.
Also known as hemlock water droplets, the roots of the plant are the most toxic part.
The plant has been linked to the death of a dog in Lough Neagh, County Antrim, this month.
The dog is believed to have been exposed to a hemlock before his death, while several other dog fatalities have been reported in the area.
The poisonous plant’s boom is believed to have been caused by humid conditions in the area in Northern Ireland.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency of Northern Ireland said a site inspection took place on May 23 and found “a large quantity of toxic but fairly common hemlock water droplets”.
Since then, signs have been put up in the area to warn pet owners about the poisonous plant, the agency said.
The agency described it as “perhaps the most toxic native plant.”
The plant, which grows well in the British and Northern Irish climate, can grow up to 3 meters tall, has small white flowers and a hairless stalk with purple spots.
There is concern that the plant could find its way into people’s gardens as it can easily be confused with the edible parsley.
The hemlock’s venom causes it to give off an odor that botanists have compared to the urine of mice.
In August 2021, Indiana’s Natural Resources Conservation Service warned that the plant was spreading rapidly in parks and backyards across the United States.