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'Tis the Season for Holiday Plants..And Inquisitive Pets!

Pretty Poinsettia..Problem for Pets?

All across the country, and the world, people are busy decorating their homes for the winter holidays. Whether you are celebrating Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or even "Festivus", we love to adorn our dwellings with reminders of the beauty and bounty of nature. Seasonal plants are a common theme in many houses, but is there any danger to our curious pets?

There is no doubt that the beautiful poinsettia plant can be found in many places of business as well as homes. Urban legend has it that poinsettias are terribly dangerous for our pets, but this is actually a myth. The white, milky sap of the plant does contain chemicals that can cause irritation to the skin or the intestinal tract, but the vast majority of cases of pets ingesting poinsettias results in only mild symptoms. Most often vomiting, drooling, and possibly skin irritation might occur, but these signs are usually very self-limiting and treatment is not needed.

Similarly, the Christmas (or Holiday) Cactus is a boldly colored plant that does well in our homes during the wintertime. Pet owners might be concerned about that the serrated leaves might be problematic for our pets, but like the poinsettia, we generally only see mild gastrointestinal (GI) signs, like a little vomiting or diarrhea due to irritation of the leaves. Again, it is unlikely that your pet will need treatment unless signs persist for more than a few hours.

There are some plants that are much more concerning and depending on where you live, these may be more or less common in your area.

Holly plant
Holly may not be jolly for pets!

Holly and Mistletoe are perennial favorites at this time of year, but many people will use artificial representations of these plants. If you are able to find live holly, be aware that this plant has the potential for some significant GI irritation that might include abdominal pain. Many pets might only have a mild issue, but there is likelihood for more severe signs and that means a trip to the animal ER to combat dehydration.

Mistletoe, on the other hand, can be very problematic. Not only can a pet experience some GI upset, but there is a potential for ingesting enough of the plant to cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate. This is one that should definitely be out of reach of your inquisitive furry friends.

A new popular winter plant is the Amaryllis species, also known as the Aztec Lily, orchid lily, or naked lily. Thankfully, as you will read below, these are not true lilies, but these winter blooming plants have a lot of alkaloids in all parts. Mild vomiting and diarrhea might occur if just a few leaves are eaten, but if a larger amount of the plant is ingested, or if the bulb is eaten, low blood pressure, weakness, and even seizures may occur.

Finally, even though lilies are not considered a common plant or flower around the winter holidays, they are common enough in floral arrangement that we should discuss them. Lilies are very dangerous or even fatal to cats. A few leaves, the pollen, or even the water from the vase can cause acute kidney damage in our feline friends. If your cat has been exposed to lilies or nibbled on this plant, you should seek veterinary care immediately.

Many other holiday plants could be problematic for your pet. You can reviews lists at Pet Poison Helpline as well as the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center. If you feel your pet has ingested some or all of a plant and you are worried, call your veterinarian or closest animal emergency hospital. It is always a good idea to call either Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) or ASPCA (888-426-4435) if you are concerned. There are fees associated with these calls, but by calling first, the toxicology experts at these businesses may be able to help you avoid a visit to the ER. If they do send you into the emergency room, they will give you a case number and that case number will enable your veterinarians to start expert treatment for your pet in a more expedient manner.

From all of us here at, we hope that your holidays are festive, fun, bright, and most of all, safe!! Have a great New Year!! #PetPalsTV, #veterinary, #dogs, #cats, #HolidayPlantsAndPets, #CertifiedVeterinaryJournalist, #CVJ


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