Holiday Plants Poisonous to Dogs and Cats

Owner holding cat and dog with Christmas tree in background

The holidays are a great time to be with friends and family. They're also the perfect time to get your pets in the holiday spirit. But as you decorate your home with flowers and festive plants, it's important to know which ones could end up harming your furry friends.

Today, we'll answer common questions you may have about holiday plants, such as "Are poinsettias poisonous to cats?" and "Can my Christmas tree harm my pet?" Keep an eye out for harmful holiday plants in your home.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

Most commonly available in white and red, poinsettias are a favourite holiday plant that help you get into the spirit of the season. But are poinsettias poisonous to cats and dogs? The truth is that these festive plants have a bad reputation. Poinsettia’s leaves produce a sap that can irritate your dog or cat’s mouth and esophagus.

If ingested, your pet may experience nausea or vomiting. They would need to ingest a significant amount to cause a more serious reaction, though. Most pets won’t consume more than a little because of the irritation it causes.

Are Lilies Dangerous for My Pets?

With so many varieties, including the holiday favourite Christmas lily, lilies are a beautiful addition to floral bouquets, wrapped gifts and table centrepieces. Although not toxic to dogs, lilies can be dangerous for cats. Cats are the most susceptible to lily poisoning as every part of the plant, including the water in which it sits, is poisonous.

Cats are not very fond of eating leaves or flowers, but the water supporting the lily's growth may be too tempting to resist if your cat is thirsty. Consuming the water from a lily plant or any part of the plant itself can lead to fatal kidney failure in cats. Dogs do not experience serious medical conditions if they drink lily water or consume part of the plant, but doing so can lead to stomach upset, including vomiting or diarrhea.

Can I Have a Christmas Tree Around Dogs and Cats?

What would Christmas be without a Christmas tree, right? Real Christmas trees can make your home smell wonderful and establish a festive gathering place for holiday parties. If your tree is pine, while it isn’t toxic to dogs, it can be toxic to cats and can cause liver damage and even death. Pine Christmas trees contain pine oil and sap that, if ingested, cause gastrointestinal problems for cats. Because the decorations on a Christmas tree are so tempting for your feline companion, it's difficult to keep them away from the source of pine oil.

While pine oil is not as toxic to dogs, having a pine Christmas tree may still create issues with pets around. The ingestion of a pine needle or fertilized water used to lengthen the life of your Christmas tree may be detrimental to your dog's health. Pine needles can cause internal damage, such as organ punctures and scratches, that leads to more complex medical issues if untreated. If you feel Christmas simply isn't the same without a tree, consider getting an artificial tree or, if you have a real tree, keep pine needles off the floor and protect your pets from the tree by wrapping a collapsible gate around it.

What Other Holiday Plants are Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

Christmas trees, lilies and poinsettia aren't the only plants you need to be worried about this holiday season. Take a look at more common holiday plants you should avoid, if possible:

  • Mistletoe. An unexpected kiss under the mistletoe may be the stuff of holiday daydreams, but if your cat or dog decides to nibble on this festive plant, your perfect holiday may become a nightmare. Mistletoe contains chemicals that, when digested, lead to severe stomach pain, vomiting, excessive drooling and diarrhea. In most cases, these symptoms pass with the help of a veterinarian; however, pets that consume a large amount of mistletoe may experience an abnormal heart rate, seizures and even death.
  • Holly. Poisonous to both people and pets, the leaves and berries of the holly plant can cause severe gastrointestinal problems in dogs and cats. Though cats are less likely to view a holly plant as a tasty treat, cats and dogs alike may become very ill after ingesting the leaves or berries. Like mistletoe, eating larger amounts of holly berries or leaves increases the severity of symptoms.
  • Azalea. Available in many colours, including holiday favourites red and white, azaleas are often incorporated into holiday bouquets and centrepieces. But like the lily, all parts of the azalea should be considered poisonous for dogs and cats. Grayanotoxins found within the azalea plant are the reason they are so dangerous for pets. This type of toxin interrupts the chemical processes required to keep your pet's cardiac and skeletal muscles working properly. Azalea ingestion leads to severe gastrointestinal, cardiac and central nervous system disruption that, if left untreated, may cause heart failure and death.

What If Your Pet Ingests a Plant Toxic to Dogs & Cats?

Keep an eye out for symptoms of illness in your dog or cat if you have any of the plants we've discussed in or around your home. At the first sign of a medical issue, contact your veterinarian or take your pet to your local emergency animal hospital for evaluation right away.

Are Plants a Holiday No-No with Pets?

Just because a plant may be detrimental to your pet doesn't mean you need to avoid decorating altogether. If you're certain your dog or cat will not have access to your Christmas tree or holiday plants, you can still keep them in your home. Or, if your pets stay indoors and only go out on supervised walks, there is nothing wrong with having holiday plants outside. However, the best way to keep your pets safe is to avoid bringing plants dangerous to dogs and cats into your home at all. 

With this in mind, we hope the holidays are safe and enjoyable for all members of your family (especially the furry ones). Explore other pet safety tips for the holidays to find out which decorations and other festive items pose a risk. To get tips and advice from our experts for the rest of the season and beyond, click here.

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