Hazards for Your Pet

Holidays are fun, but they can also be very stressful. There is so much to do; gifts to buy (and wrap), food to cook, lights to hang, tree to put up and decorate, etc. You may also have guests coming to visit (some that you did not even know were coming) and they might bring their children and some even bring their pets. Yes, I know a few people who never go anywhere without their pets but work. That would be really difficult for me to do since I have five cats. Many people still have holiday indoor plants, so you need to know about some of the plants that are dangerous for your pets and little humans. There are several obvious ones, like the Poinsettia, Mistletoe, and the Holly plant. However, there are also several that you may not have thought of such as the Yew, Hellebore, and Amaryllis. I have listed these plants here with some important info that you should know if you have pets and even if you don’t.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

The poinsettia has had a bad reputation for a long time, but it is not really as bad as you may have heard. This plant contains a thick sap that is similar to latex and is mildly irritating to the skin and the digestive system. The sap in the berries is a bit more toxic than the rest of the plant because the sap is so concentrated there, but they are bitter and will irritate the skin and mouth, so your pet probably will not eat enough for it to be serious. However, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your pet for the next 24 hours and call your veterinarian if there are any signs of vomiting or diarrhea. This could cause dehydration which can be life-threatening.

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

The mistletoe plant has a bad rep too, but it really is dangerous. There are several toxic principles in mistletoe such as pharatoxin viscumin, lectins, phoratoxins, and toxalbumin. Eating the berries of the mistletoe plant can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, breathing difficulty, erratic heartbeat, strange behavior, and low blood pressure leading to collapse and possible death. It is extremely important to keep this plant out of the reach of pets and go to the veterinary hospital immediately if your pet eats part of the plant.

Holly (Ilex opaca)

This was a favorite at my childhood home during the holidays because we had a holly tree growing in the front yard. I can vouch for the fact that the leaves are painful if you step on them with bare feet, so I can imagine how painful it would be if your pet swallowed some. There are some seriously pointy spikes all around the edges of the leaves that are sharp enough to draw blood. Also, the berries of the holly tree contain saponins, which can cause intestinal upset with vomiting and diarrhea and possibly depression.

Yew (Taxus baccata)

I had not heard of the Yew until doing research about poisonous plants. Apparently, some people use them as small indoor trees or just as a decorative plants, but this is a dangerous plant for anyone with pets. This tree has taxine, taxol, ephedrine, and many other toxins I have never heard of. The signs of Yew poisoning are tremors, breathing trouble, seizures, and sudden death. In fact, eating part of a Yew tree can be fatal to your pet within just a few hours, so you should head to the emergency veterinarian hospital immediately if you suspect this has happened.

Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)

This pretty flower has an interesting background. As legend has it, the Christmas rose grew in the snow from the tears of a child who had no gift to give Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. However, it is a poisonous little beauty that contains ranunculin, protoanemonin, glycosides, veratrin, and bufadienolides. I know, a bunch of gobbledygook, right? But, these are poisons that can cause burning and blistering of the mouth, throat, and digestive tract as well as colic, diarrhea, depression, and even vomiting blood. If your pet eats this, you need to take a trip to the emergency clinic.

Amaryllis (Amaryllis sp.)

These flowers look very much like lilies, and they are even referred to as the Saint Joseph lily or Belladonna lily. Many people like to give these plants as Christmas gifts because they are able to bloom indoors during the winter and the flowers are incredibly beautiful. The poisonous substance in the Amaryllis is Lycorine, which causes drooling, tremors, anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, and depression in pets as well as humans.

I know it may seem like all plants are toxic to pets, but there are some holiday plants that are safe such as the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and the African violet (Saintpaulia spp.). Your Christmas tree was probably pretty safe, but you should be careful and make sure your pets (or children) do not chew on it anyway. So, be sure that there are no dangerous plants within reach of anyone who may decide to snack on one.