Toxic Holiday Plants and the Risk to Pets

Cat and Poinsettia
Cat And Poinsettia

The holidays are always a great time to brighten up our homes with ornamental plants. Some of these plants are fairly safe, but others can pose a danger to our pets. Unfortunately, they don't know which plants are good or bad for them, so make sure you know which common holiday plants your pet should be careful around.

Poinsettia Plant

When it comes to poisonous holiday plants, the greatest myth is about the poinsettia. The poinsettia, a popular Christmas plant, is not as toxic as it was once thought to be. The sap it produces can be irritating to the mouth and the stomach, but thankfully, it is not fatal. It may still be a good idea to keep this plant out of your curious pet's reach.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a winter holiday plant that can be potentially toxic to pets. There are many types of mistletoe, but the most toxic comes from the European variety. If a dog or cat ingests small amounts of berries from this plant, they may experience mild gastrointestinal signs like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If they ingest a large amount, the signs may be more severe. An abnormal heart rate, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia (drunken appearance), seizures, collapse, and even death have been reported.

brown dog lying on stair
brown dog lying on stair

Holly

When Christmas or English holly is ingested, it may result in severe vomiting and diarrhea. The holly's spiny leaves and potentially substances (including saponins, methylxanthines, and cyanogens) released from the plant are what makes it toxic. If ingested, most pets will lip smack, drool, and shake their head excessively due to the mechanical injury from the spiny leaves. Foreign body obstruction may occur if a large amount of the leaves are ingested

Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is another common holiday plant that is naturally found in the coastal mountains of Brazil. in dogs vomiting and diarrhea (both potentially with blood), loss of appetite and depression have been reported. In cats, ataxia has been noted.

Shamrock

The Shamrock is a very common plant around St. Patrick's Day. This plant has a very bitter taste, which often deters dogs and cats from consuming large quantities. However, when ingested in large enough quantities poisoning can occur. Soluble calcium oxalates are present in all parts of this plant. When these salts are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, they will bind with the body’s calcium, and this results in a sudden drop in calcium. Clinical signs associated with the ingestion of this plant include drooling, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, tremors, bloody urine, and changes in thirst and urination.

Easter Lily

While the Easter Lily is not a popular toxin in dogs, it is extremely toxic to cats. All parts of the Easter Lilly are toxic to cats. These plants should be kept out of a cat’s reach because even minimal ingestion can prove fatal if treatment is not started promptly. Clinical signs may initially be gastrointestinal but eventually will cause severe kidney and electrolyte imbalances, seizures, and ultimately death. If you have a cat, we recommend keeping these plants out of your home:

black dog standing on hill
black dog standing on hill
  • Asiatic lily
  • Day lily
  • Easter lily
  • Peace lily
  • Japanese Show lily
  • Rubrum lily
  • Stargazer lily
  • Tiger lily
  • Wood lily

If your cat ingests any part of a lily plant, this is a life-threatening emergency. Seek veterinary attention immediately! Have the veterinarian contact animal poison control.

Safer Alternatives

If you want to find a safer option to lilies, here are a few that will not cause harm to your cat and will look beautiful in a floral arrangement.

Blue DaisyMarigoldGloxiniaSunflower
CameliaNasturtiumRoseImpatiens
CannaPersian VioletSnap DragonViola
Gerber DaisyPetuniaStar JasmineZinnia
Flowers That Are Safe For Cats
brown dog at a field
brown dog at a field
short-coated black dog with blue collar
short-coated black dog with blue collar
dog sitting on armchair
dog sitting on armchair

In Case of Ingestion

If you believe your pet has ingested any of these plants, even if they are known to cause mild symptoms, please contact your veterinarian for more information on the type of care your pet may need. Familiarize yourself with resources like ASPCA Animal Poison Control and emergency facilities in your area in case your veterinarian is closed.

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