Every holiday season, images and posts float around the internet and social media warning of the dangers of decorative plants. Holly, poinsettia, mistletoe, and the Christmas cactus are all popular this time of year – and have each had their own bad reputation among pet owners. While most holiday plants definitely have the potential to cause stomach irritation, very few of them are actually a danger to your pet.
•Holly can be toxic to dogs, cats and horses, and can cause some damage to your pet’s stomach and intestines due to
its waxy, spiny leaves. Although holly’s toxicity level is relatively low, contact your veterinarian if your pet is vomiting, has diarrhea, drooling excessively, or is depressed after ingestion. It’s best to keep holly out of the reach of curious pets just to be safe!
•Poinsettias are sometimes considered toxic since they can cause irritation to the sensitive tissues of the mouth and stomach, but this is actually a plant of very low toxicity. The inside of the plant, a white and sappy liquid, is the source of the discomfort in your animal’s digestive system, but it isn’t lethal. If your pet is showing signs other than general irritation of the mouth and vomiting, it is possible that the plant has pesticide on it that could be extremely fatal to an animal – especially if it is very small. If you suspect that your pet may have ingested pesticide, rush them to the vet – especially if they begin to have a seizure. Left untreated, the poisoning can result in coma and death, which would be absolutely tragic, around the holiday season especially. Don’t worry though – your Poinsettias can stay, just make sure they are safe, first!
•Mistletoe is considered extremely toxic because it can lead to heart problems due to the severe drop in blood pressure caused by active toxins in the leaves. Hallucinations, seizures and even death could follow if your pet eats Mistletoe. Keep pets safe by making sure mistletoe is well out of reach – I mean, it’s usually hung up high anyway, right?
•Christmas cacti are completely safe and nontoxic to animals, although the fibrous material of the plant itself could possibly cause stomach and intestinal irritation. However, they are harmless for the most part, so at least there is one festive plant you don’t have to worry about! Not to mention, they are absolutely stunning when they bloom.
•Lillies and Daffodils are popular gift items this time of year, but they can be harmful to pets – especially cats.
The Lilium and Hemerocallis variety of Lily are the most toxic to cats, and even ifa small amount is ingested, it could cause gastrointestinal issues and convulsions. The bulbs are especially toxic, so if you have a curious pet that enjoys digging, keep your decorative flowers out of reach from playful paws!
•Amaryllis flowers are also popular gift items, often sold in kits in which the soil, bulbs, and planter are wrapped together to provide the recipient with a little garden project. While this is a fun and cute idea, it will be anything but fun and cute if your pet decides to eat either the flower itself, or the bulbs. The amount of toxicity is bad enough to cause tremors, lethargy, vomiting, and abdominal pain if it is ingested.
•Christmas Trees are arguably the most common festive plant that is displayed during the holidays. Although the tree isn’t “alive” anymore, it can still be dangerous depending on what kind of tree it is. Fir trees have oils in them that can agitate your pet’s mouth and intestines, and pines are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but some can be dangerous. Check out the exact type of Christmas tree you have on the ASPCA’s site to be aware of toxicity. Chewing on pine needles can also cause stomach problems, intestinal obstruction, or puncture – even if they are from a nontoxic tree. Not to mention, the water used to nourish the tree can be toxic in many different ways – chemicals, molds, bacteria, and fertilizer are all things that could be present in the water. Only a few laps of the toxic water mixture are needed to cause sickness in your pet Many pet-owning families block the tree off with a pen or gate of some sort – especially if their pet shows an interest in climbing and playing in the tree.
•Artificial Plants and Flowers while nontoxic, can be dangerous as well if eaten. Especially if they are coated in wax or some kind of lacquer to give it texture, this substance can cause irritation and nausea in your pet. Not to mention, because it is fake, the material will not break down in your pet’s system and their bowels can become obstructed. This is a bigger risk in little dogs, who also are more likely to choke on it, due to their significantly smaller digestive systems.
It could be helpful to have a digestive aid at the ready in case your pet does happen to ingest one of these potentially harmful substances. To help with diarrhea, here are some options to help your pet feel better while you hopefully move or get rid of the damaging plant. This over the counter medication can alleviate nausea in your pet, so it may be useful to have some around just in case! There is nothing wrong with wanting to be festive for the holidays, but it is important to be mindful about it – you don’t want to spend the holidays at the vet!