When the holiday season rolls around, we all love a festive plant to spruce up the atmosphere of our living spaces. If you have a dog or cat, chances are that he or she will be curious about the new addition to the home. They might even sniff, chew, or rub their bodies against the plant. But this is where things can get dicey. As a pet owner, it’s important to know the truth about poisonous Christmas plants for your furry friends.
Poinsettias are notorious for being the most deadly plant for pets. However, this is not quite the case. It is true that their brightly colored leaves contain a sap that irritates the tissues of the mouth and esophagus. Ironically, this very sap naturally deters ingestion. This means that even if your dog or cat eats the leaves, they will most likely ingest a very small amount due to the unpleasant sensation that results. In the case that these leaves are ingested, mild nausea, vomiting, and drooling will ensue. The good news is that it is unlikely for more serious problems to develop.
Dogs and, in particular, cats are charmed by the appearance of a brightly lit Christmas tree in the living room. However, there are some risks to keep in mind. Fir trees produce oils that can be irritating to a pet’s mouth and stomach. These oils can cause excessive vomiting or drooling. If many needles are ingested, there is a risk of gastrointestinal tract irritation, obstruction, and puncture.
Furthermore, drinking Christmas tree water can cause mild vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea. The presence of fertilizers, bacteria, or mold in the water can quickly cause sickness in your pet.
Mistletoe and Holly
Mistletoe and holly are iconic Christmas plants. Sadly, however, the leaves and berries of these two plants are generally more dangerous to pets than poinsettias and Christmas trees. Symptoms include intestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain.
The ingestion of mistletoe is particularly worrisome for dogs and cats. Mistletoe is well known for causing severe intestinal upset, a sudden drop in blood pressure, breathing problems, and even hallucinations. If a lot is ingested, seizures and even death may result.
To be safe, we recommend that holly and mistletoe be kept well out of your house altogether. For the safety of your pets, opt for the imitation version of these plants.
Many enjoy the vibrant and eye-catching bulbs of the Amaryllis, which blossom into red, white, or pink flowers during the Christmas season. However, this beloved and beautiful plant is strongly toxic for dogs and cats. If the flowers and leaves are ingested, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, lethargy, or tremors may occur. Be warned, though, that the bulbs are actually the most toxic. It can cause even more severe symptoms, such as seizures and changes in blood pressure.
Generally, the Christmas cactus is considered a non-toxic plant. If it is ingested, mild vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea may occur. Thankfully, severe symptoms are not expected.
Poisonous Christmas Plants, In Short
Please be advised, that the consumption of any plant material may cause gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats. Some plants may cause life-threatening problems for your pets, while others will not. For a look at the complete list, please refer to this ASPCA database.
Keep in mind, however, that some plants have been treated with pesticides. In these cases, all ingestion may be potentially dangerous. Due to their small body mass, puppies and kittens are at highest risk for complications.
Furthermore, cats are generally able to jump to high shelves on their own. For this reason, we recommend that, at least for poisonous Christmas plants, pet owners choose imitation versions over the real ones. If you do choose to bring any of these plants into your home, be sure to place them strategically and properly train your pet to avoid eating them. If you find your pet displaying any symptoms or evidence of ingestion, call a trusted animal healthcare provider, like Cherrelyn Animal Hospital, immediately.