Poisonous Holiday Plants
Bright ornamental plants are a great way to dress up the house during the holidays and a dreary winter. Pet owners should be aware, however, that many of these common plants are poisonous to pets.
Toxicity ranges from mild to severe, and the amount of plant consumed determines how sick a pet may become. In general, gastrointestinal upset is the most common finding, but if enough plant material is ingested, seizures, coma or death is possible.
Naturally curious puppies and kittens may want to sample some of the new-in-the-house greens. Dose is size-dependent, so puppies and kittens are most often at greatest risk for plant poisonings.
Many people associate the Poinsettia plant with extreme toxicity, but this is not entirely true. In fact, it is largely an urban legend, dating back to 1919, according to David Emery, About.com Guide to Urban Legends. The sap of Poinsettias is considered to be mildly toxic/irritating, and will probably cause nausea or vomiting, but not death. It is better to err on the side of caution though, and keep pets away from this plant.
Mistletoe and Holly
A couple of holiday plants, specifically Mistletoe and Holly, are considered to be moderately to severely toxic, and you should call your veterinarian or poison control center immediately for specific advice.
Lilies and Daffodils
Additionally, plant bulb kits featuring Amaryllis and other plants in the lily family, Narcissus and other plants in the daffodil family, are popular gift items at this time of year. Pet owners should be aware that these plants are very toxic for cats, and sometimes with severe symptoms of gastrointestinal signs, cardiac arrhythmias, kidney failure, convulsions and death occur. Daffodils are toxic to both dogs and cats, especially the bulbs.
Don’t forget about the Christmas tree. Christmas trees are considered to be mildly toxic. The fir tree oils can be irritating to the mouth and stomach, causing excessive drooling or vomiting. The tree needles are not easily digested either, possibly causing GI irritation, vomiting, gastrointestinal obstruction or puncture. As noted earlier, the amount of trouble depends on how much is consumed. Many times, pets don’t consume mass quantities of tree material.
Common Clinical Signs Seen
Signs most commonly seen with toxic plant ingestion relate to the gastrointestinal tract: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sometimes excessive salivation (drooling). In some cases, such as holly berry ingestion, tremors or seizures may be seen, followed by coma and death.
Watch your plants as well as your pets and closely monitor your pet’s interest in the plants or place plants out of reach. However to be 100% safe, do not bring toxic live plants into your home and if you are unsure about the effect a plant may have on animals, look it up to check the toxicity. Check the plants regularly for any signs of chewing or missing leaves just in case your pet was sneaky and nibbled while you were unaware. Plastic plants are always a great alternative option as well! If your dog ingests a poisonous plant, contact your veterinarian immediately and watch for the common clinical signs associated with ingesting a poisonous plant.