Have you heard that many holiday plants can be toxic to pets?
The danger is real, but, fortunately, it is often exaggerated.
Poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe all pose some threat to pets. All are toxic in large doses. But for most pets, most of the time, the result of eating your Christmas centerpiece is more likely to be a trip to the dog house rather than a trip to the vet.
Here’s what you need to know:
Poinsettias: The danger from Poinsettias has been greatly exaggerated. The plant has lost most of its toxicity through hybridization. However, this does not mean that poinsettias are edible! The sap from the plants is an irritant.
Symptoms: Excessive salivating, pawing at the head, vomiting
Treatment: Wash off the irritating sap. If your pet’s eyes are irritated or inflamed, or if your pet is vomiting, you may need to call your vet. Some dogs and cats need a medication to calm the irritation.
Holly: The berries are attractive to pets, but they can be poisonous in large quantities. Sharp holly leaves can also cut your pet.
Symptoms: Upset stomach. If your pet is vomiting or has diarrhea, there is a danger of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Treatment: If your pet ate only a few berries, there is probably no danger. However, if you suspect that your pet ate lots of berries, call your vet. The vet may prescribe IV fluids to treat dehydration.
Mistletoe: (American mistletoe is less toxic – and much more common in the US – than European mistletoe) Pets are most likely to eat the berries, which are poisonous. If your dog or cat eats a large quantity of mistletoe berries, it may become very ill. A few berries produce only mild stomach upset – but lots of berries can be dangerous.
Symptoms: Animals suffering from mistletoe poisoning may show any of these symptoms: hyper-salivating, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urinating, increased heart rate. As with holly, if you suspect your pet ate a large quantity of mistletoe berries, call your vet immediately.
Remember: “large quantities” of a toxic plant is a subjective measurement. The size of your pet, its age and overall health, and its sensitivity to environmental irritants all need to be considered. What would seem like “a few” berries for an adult Golden Retriever could be a toxic amount to a cat.
If you are at all worried about your pet’s symptoms, call your vet and follow directions.