Holiday Hazards: Poisonous Plants

December is here which means the holidays are right around the corner. It is a season of joy and love, but also potential danger for your pets. With new decorations, foods, plants, and toys, your inquisitive pets could be at risk. To keep your pets safe this holiday season, we will be sharing some of the common hazards you should be aware of.

Poinsettia Plants
While poinsettia plants are not as deadly as some people think, they are still harmful for pets. The poinsettia plant’s brightly coloured leaves contain a sap that can irritate a pet’s mouth and esophagus. If the leaves are ingested, they will likely cause nausea and vomiting but would only be poisonous if ingested in large quantities. Many poinsettia plants are treated with pesticides which could cause severe reactions such as seizures, coma, and potentially death.

Holly and Mistletoe
While beautiful and festive, these holiday plants and their berries are very toxic to pets. If ingested, these plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and severe abdominal pain. Mistletoe contains multiple substances that are toxic to both dogs and cats, such as toxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin. These substances cause intestinal upset, a sudden, severe drop in blood pressure, breathing problems, and hallucinations. If ingested in large quantities, seizures and death may follow.

Lilies and Daffodils
While not what you typically think of as holiday plants, these flowers are common in holiday floral arrangements or are given as gifts. Eating even a small amount of lilies will severely impact a cat’s system, causing symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues, arrhythmia, and convulsions. Daffodils are toxic to both cats and dogs. While the bulbs of the daffodil are the most toxic, even a few bites of the flower can cause kidney failure and even death in cats.

Amaryllis (Belladonna)
The beautiful, flowering amaryllis is another flower commonly found in floral arrangements. The amaryllis contains lycorine and other toxic substances which cause salivation, gastrointestinal abnormalities (vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and abdominal pain), lethargy, and tremors in both cats and dogs.

Christmas Cactus
Thankfully, the Christmas Cactus plant is not toxic to dogs or cats. However, the fibrous plant material can cause irritation to the stomach and intestines, leading to vomiting or diarrhea. Curious cats and dogs may also be injured by the spines.

The Christmas Tree
Thinking of having a real tree this year? Keep in mind that the oils produced by fir trees can be irritating to a pet’s mouth and stomach, causing excessive vomiting or drooling. The tree needles can also cause gastrointestinal irritation, obstruction, and punctures. Additionally, the water used for Christmas trees can be toxic. Bacteria, molds, and fertilizers can cause your pet to become extremely sick with only a few laps of water. Make sure to keep the water covered and blocked off so pets cannot access it.

While it makes a beautiful decoration, ivy can be dangerous to both cats and dogs. Ivy contains Triterpenoid saponins (hederagenin) which is toxic to pets. Ingestion can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, and diarrhea.

In Case of Ingestion
If you believe your pet has ingested any of these plants, even if they only cause mild symptoms, contact your veterinarian for more information on the type of care your pet may need. Additionally, familiarize yourself with emergency animal facilities in your area in case your veterinarian is closed.