Pets, Children and hops
Something people worry about with any plant is how will it affect my animals? For the most part hops are safe, but for some smaller animals it can be harmful if they eat a lot. This is similar to many native species.
Hops are vine-like plants, with large leaves and cone like flowers we call hops. The stems and leaves are completely harmless and the only thing they risk being eaten by is rabbits and slugs. You can decide for yourself if that is fortunate or not. It is the hops themselves which are the concern. They will generally grow on the higher parts of the plants, usually at least a metre up and in larger quantities as you go up. They produce very bitter spicy resin called lupulin, which is part of what makes them so useful for brewing.
Hops mainly have a negative effect on smaller pets, cats, dogs etc. In large quantities they can be harmful, causing sickness, heavy panting or dizziness. This does take very large quantities, if you pet can even reach them, and isn’t put off by the smell or bitterness they will have to consume a large portion of your crop. If they do, take them to the vets straight away. In all likelihood your pet will ignore the plant. Even rodents seem to avoid the actual hop cones because they just aren’t appetising. But despite always having pets when we have been growing hops, they have never shown more than a passing interest and then disgust.
On larger animals hops are not very harmful. Horse, cattle and even pigs don’t express any negative effects from eating hops. Horses are the most effected, hops are used in various cures and supplements for them. So while not harmful you may not want them eating a large amount. For other large animals they are sometimes used in feed, especially at micro brewers that were set up in an old farm. We personally do not recommend feeding them to your larger animals, research suggests they also can have a positive effect but you need expert advertise before starting such a routine.
Chickens are also not negatively affected, and again are suggested to have some positive medical effects. So again don’t just go mixing hops in the feed for no reason, but if some get eaten it won’t hurt them.
Children are generally classed as pests but many seem to keep them as pets. It is possible that unprepared hops can cause upset stomachs and headaches. But not serious medical problems. Children may also rub the lupulin from the hops in their eyes, this will hurt but also not cause lasting injury. We recommend throwing away any children if you are buying a hop plant. The plant is more scared of children than they are of it.
Hops are mostly pretty safe for your garden. Animals are most likely to be naturally put off or unable to reach them. It is a shame two of the most common pets are the most negatively affected. But unless you have one who commonly eats flowers it will likely be okay.