Be Careful When Choosing What Holiday Plants You Decorate With During the Holidays So You Can Keep Your Pets Safe
A Few Common Holiday Plants That Can Be Toxic for Your Pets
As the holidays are quickly approaching, be wary of buying these holiday plants if you have furry companions in your home. As the weather gets colder, animals spend more time indoors and are more likely to get into things that they shouldn’t such as household plants (Bertero et al., 2020). Depending upon the country, 5% to 11% of all pet poisonings that have been reported, occur from the ingestion of household plants (Bertero et al., 2020). Kittens and puppies are the most susceptible to houseplant toxicity due to their small stature combined with their active stage of growth (Elfenbein, 2019). Pet owners may not realize their animal is experiencing plant toxicity unless they catch their pet in the act of ingesting plant material (Bertero et al., 2020). This can become concerning very quickly because, if a pet is acting lethargic, owners do not realize that their pet is suffering from plant toxicity. Owners may just assume their animal is having an “off” day and not seek veterinary care until it’s too late. Another concern in households that contain a plethora of plants is determining which plant the animal ate to come up with a treatment plan. Plant toxicities can create a diverse number of symptoms in companion animals depending upon the type of plant that the animal ingested (Bertero et al., 2020). On top of plant toxicity, pet owners need to be aware if any of their plants were treated with pesticides which can be extremely dangerous for pets to consume (Elfenbein, 2019). If you are unsure of how to proceed in caring for your pet when they have been poisoned by a plant; a fantastic resource is the ASPCA Animal Poison Control (Mahaney, 2010).The ASPCA can aid veterinarian’s in their knowledge on the specificity of plants and the symptoms that can occur as well as treatment protocols (Mahaney, 2010).
One of the most familiar holiday plants that cause plant toxicity in animals is the Euphorbia pulcherrima which is also recognized as the poinsettia (Bertero et al., 2020). Poinsettias are not safe for either cats or dogs to consume and every holiday season, veterinarians see a spike in toxicity cases from poinsettia ingestion (Bertero et al., 2020). The most dangerous aspect of the plant is the milky latex coating on the leaves which seem to attract animals through the plant smell that it naturally produces (Bertero et al., 2020). Animals commonly lick or try to eat the waxy coating which is very unsafe (Bertero et al., 2020). Some owners may not realize they are ingesting the toxins if the animal chooses to only lick the plant without any displayed bite marks (Bertero et al., 2020). Digesting the outer coating can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dermatitis, and conjunctivitis (Bertero et al., 2020). If you plan to have poinsettias as a holiday décor item, please remember to put it out of reach from your pets to keep your furry companions safe this holiday season.
Another plant that is frequently seen around the holidays is Holly. Holly can be a houseplant by itself, incorporated into a Christmas tree, or made into a wreath to hang on a door (Crampton, 2020). The leaves in holly are very pointy and can be dangerous if they enter an animal’s digestive track (Crampton, 2020). The red berries in the holly plant contain theobromine which can be very dangerous for dogs to consume (Crampton, 2020). Theobromine is also in chocolate and causes similar toxic symptoms targeting the gastrointestinal tract including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (Crampton, 2020). Additional symptoms include a reduction in blood pressure and increased heart which may lead to dizziness when consuming the red berries in holly (Crampton, 2020). Dogs are more susceptible to theobromine toxicity due to the way their body absorbs the chemical slowly and breaks it down gradually as it stays in their body over longer periods of time compared to other animals (Crampton, 2020). As more berries are eaten, symptoms will become increasingly severe for your pets (Crampton, 2020). Always take your pet to receive veterinary care if they have ingested holly including the leaves or the berries to ensure their safety.
Mistletoe can be found in an archway or pinned at the doorway, waiting for couples to kiss underneath as a sign of good luck (Crampton, 2020). Although mistletoe may bring luck to humans, it is very unsafe for pets. Mistletoe is considered to be a hemiparasite that grows on trees and can be harmful if ingested by dogs and cats (Crampton, 2020). Mistletoe is comprised of phoratoxin which can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, blurred vision, decreased heart rate, and a drop in blood pressure (Crampton, 2020). Mistletoe and holly can exhibit very similar symptoms but are treated differently. Knowing which type of plant your pet ate is very important for a veterinarian to be aware of as they take care of your animal.
While a Christmas tree itself may not be dangerous, having a Christmas tree in a household setting may be a safety hazard for pets. The tree branches and needles are sharp and if ingested by a cat or dog, they may cause damage to the stomach lining (Elfenbein, 2019). The water bowl that is connected to the stump of the tree may contain bacteria, mold, or fertilizer that can be very harmful to pets (Elfenbein, 2019). These substances could have been present as the tree was alive and can still be present long after the tree is cut down (Elfenbein, 2019). If your furry companions are capable of drinking the tree water, cover it with a tree skirt or sheet cover so they will not have access to the water tray. If a tree is decorated with lights, pet owners must make sure that their animals are not chewing on the string of lights for risk of electrocution (Elfenbein, 2019). Festive ornaments may seem like a fun toy to pets, but ornaments should never be ingested and if they break, the broken glass or plastic can become a hazard for animals to step on.
As the holiday season is upon us, please be sure to keep your pets away from festive plants during this time of cheer. An alternative option to live holiday plants are fake plants that add just as much festivity but do not pose any risk to animals. If you have your mind set on buying live plants, consider training your animal not to go near any of the plants or Christmas tree through positive reinforcement training techniques (Mahaney, 2010). If you are looking for training treats, we highly recommend our limited edition holiday peanut butter banana organic dog biscuits.
HempMy Pet™ wishes you and your furry loved ones a safe and healthy holiday season.
- Bertero, A., Fossati, P., & Caloni, F. (2020). Indoor Companion Animal Poisoning by Plants in Europe. Frontiers in veterinary science, 7, 487. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00487
- Crampton, L. (2020, April 17). Twelve Christmas or Holiday Plants: Poisonous and Safe – Dengarden – Home and Garden. Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://dengarden.com/gardening/Christmas-Plants-Safe-and-Poisonous
- Elfenbein, H. (2019, November 12). Dangerous Winter Holiday Plants for Pets. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_multi_dangerous_winter_holiday_plants
- Mahaney, D. (2010, December 20). Are Holiday Plants Toxic to Your Pet? Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/are-holiday-plants-toxic-to.html
Keep your pets safe this holiday season and all seasons by knowing what plants can be toxic and even fatal.