As the holidays grow near, homeowners are sure to begin decorating their homes with festive décor, plants and lights. Although these decorations are marvelous to look at, if you’re a pet owner, they could also be sources of danger for your beloved furry friend.
Holiday plants are some of the most common causes of pet health problems around the holidays, alongside injury from decorations and illness caused by toxic foods. A few staple holiday plants are very dangerous to cats and dogs; others are less dangerous but can cause mild toxicity. If you want to include live plants in this year’s holiday décor, here are six plants you’ll want to keep away from your pets.
A few holiday plants have gotten a bad reputation over the years but are not nearly as toxic as many people think they are. With that said, they still can cause problems like gastrointestinal upset, so it’s a good idea to keep these plants out of your pet’s reach.
- Poinsettias: A lot of people think that poinsettias are extremely toxic to pets, but they tend to cause more worry than is truly warranted. However, poinsettias can cause digestive problems in both cats and dogs if they are eaten. The leaves of poinsettia plants exude a sap that can cause irritation in the mouth and throat. If your pet eats these leaves, they may experience nausea and vomiting. Poinsettias do have the potential to cause fatal poisoning, but it is uncommon for pets to eat enough of the leaves because they are usually deterred by the irritating feel.
- Christmas cactus: The Christmas cactus is a beautiful flowering plant, but it can pose a threat to your pet’s safety and comfort. Although it is not technically toxic, its fibrous plant material is often hard on cats’ and dogs’ stomachs if eaten, potentially causing digestive problems. The Christmas cactus can be a safe holiday plant to keep around pets, but don’t leave it within reach if your pet is a known plant chewer.
- Christmas trees: Although they are considered less of a plant and more of a decoration, live Christmas trees can be a somewhat dangerous thing to pets. Christmas trees come with their own unique set of hazards, but live, freshly chopped trees can drop needles that are hazardous to cats and dogs in some capacity. The oils from fir trees can irritate pet’s mouths and cause nausea and diarrhea, while the needles can pose a risk of injury, puncture or blockage in the intestines. And, if you have a cat, make sure you get a fir tree, not pine, since pine trees can be toxic to cats and cause liver damage or even death if enough needles are ingested.
Aside from the mildly dangerous plants, there are also a few common holiday plants that can be extremely dangerous to both cats and dogs. Avoid having these plants in your home at all during the holidays to keep your pets safe.
- Holly: Holly may be a lovely decoration to add to your tree, on a centerpiece or above the mantle, but it is poisonous to dogs and cats. Both the leaves and berries can cause vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as excessive drooling if ingested. If your pet eats a large amount of holly, it could lead to seizures and death.
- Mistletoe: Commonly hung from the ceiling and used to elicit kisses from loved ones, mistletoe is a fun and seemingly harmless plant common around Christmastime. Unfortunately, the plant is quite hazardous to have around both cats and dogs. Mistletoe and its berries contain toxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin, both of which are toxic to pets and can lead to vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Pets may also experience more dramatic symptoms, such as excessive drooling, a severe drop in blood pressure, breathing problems and hallucinations. Eating large quantities of mistletoe can potentially be fatal for pets.
- Amaryllis: The amaryllis plant’s bright red flowers are lovely to look at but are very dangerous for pets. The plant contains a noxious substance called lycorine, which can cause salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, lethargy and tremors in both cats and dogs. The bulb of the plant is also very dangerous. Avoid keeping this plant in the house at all if you have pets!
If your pet manages to sink their teeth into your holiday plants, isolate the pet and call your vet right away to learn what to do. Do not attempt to induce vomiting on your own. Follow your vet’s instructions to ensure your pet stays safe after their close encounter with a dangerous plant.
In general, you should always keep plants away from pets. Even if they aren’t toxic, they have the potential to cause mild digestive problems. However, in the case of very poisonous plants like mistletoe and amaryllis, play it safe and opt for fake plants or other types of decorations, instead.