Ah…the delicious food, scrumptious chocolates and cookies, family time, sparkly decorations, and last minute Christmas shopping complete with crowds. The holidays are going in full force and there’s no avoiding it! And, hosting a home holiday party or having family over for a Christmas dinner may make you want to decorate with traditional items such as real flowers and garlands like mistletoe, holly, lilies, and poinsettias, but there is something you need to consider before you bring some of these plants into your home, and that is: Do you have a dog or cat?
While having mistletoe to kiss under or a potted poinsettia set out beautifully on the coffee table can make your home merry and bright, they can pose a serious health risk to family pets. Dogs and cats are curious creatures that will thoroughly inspect the things that draw their attention, unaware of the health dangers that these things might bring.
Keep this holiday season happy and safe for all by knowing which holiday and winter plants are toxic to pets so that these plants can be avoided or kept out of reach, at the very least.
This holiday favorite is a lovely home decoration for Christmastime and is an important “kissing” tradition to many people. However, mistletoe is poisonous to pets and, if ingested, pets like dogs and cats may experience gastrointestinal upset and show signs of poisoning such as a sudden and severe drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, low heart rate, and a sudden change in mental function. If a large amount is ingested, then an animal could experience seizures and possibly hallucinations or even death can occur. Both fresh and dried mistletoe leaves and berries are toxic, and both need to be well out of a pet’s reach or, to make everything much easier, don’t bring mistletoe into your home in the first place.
Another popular decorative holiday plant is holly. It stands out on its own and makes a great addition to Christmas garlands, wreaths, and centerpieces. It is also sometimes used to decorate wrapped gifts. Unfortunately for pets, holly can be dangerous and is considered poisonous. Symptoms of ingestion may include an extreme decrease in energy, vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, and unusually excessive drooling. It’s very important to consider where you place holly. Remember: cats can scale bookshelves and mantels, and bigger dogs can reach areas like tabletops, so you’ll want to keep it out-of-reach of them both.
Cats are particularly susceptible to the dangerous toxins in lilies and lily bulbs. A cat ingesting any part of of a lily can lead them to have kidney failure. Other poisoning signs include: vomiting, depression, and loss of appetite.
A few more things to consider this holiday season
If you suspect your dog or cat has eaten mistletoe, holly, lilies, or other possible toxic plants, contact your veterinarian immediately — do not wait.
Along the same line, this may come as a surprise to some, but poinsettias are not deadly to pets, so display away! However, while it has a rather low level of toxicity, if your pet does gets its paws on it, there is still a chance that poinsettia plants can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach leading to vomiting. Also, watch to see if your dog or cat is chewing on the Christmas tree. The tree needle oil on some types of real Christmas trees is considered mildly toxic and can have some of the same symptoms as poinsettias. Be observant, as ornaments can also pose a danger of ingested.
The Humane Society of the United States has a list of some of the most common toxic plants to animals. Check out this list on their website, here.
Wishing you and your furry family members a very happy holiday season!
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