The Christmas tree is such an essential part of the holiday that many people bring it into their home without a second thought— unless that thought is which decorations to use, that is. But what many pet owners don’t realize is that their beloved Christmas tree can actually be a serious health hazard to dogs and cats.
Similarly, many holidays plants are toxic to animals and should be kept far away from festivities that include your four-legged family members.
So which plants should you avoid this season and which are relatively safe? We’ll discuss how toxic popular Christmas plants are and what you can do to protect your pets from them.
Block Off Christmas Trees
It may surprise you to learn that one of the hallmark holiday traditions is also dangerous to your pets: Christmas trees. While not as concerning as some other plants, live Christmas trees are mildly toxic. In fact, nearly every part of the tree is dangerous:
- Oil/ Sap
At best, tree needles can cause irritation and an upset stomach; at worst, they can puncture your pet’s intestinal lining. Even fake tree needles can cause these same issues.
Fir tree oils can cause even more serious symptoms, such as excessive vomiting.
The water you use to extend the tree’s lifespan can also be a source of potential danger. Preservatives often placed in the water, as well as pesticides and fertilizers, are hazardous for pets. If your dog or cat mistakes this for drinking water, it may poison them.
Make sure to block off your Christmas tree and make sure your pet doesn’t try to munch on the branches. If necessary, you can set up a small decorative fence around the tree’s base.
It’s also wise to make sure festive plants are placed far out of reach and away from curious noses.
Keep Poinsettias Away From Pets
Warnings abound every holiday season about the dangers of poinsettia plants. And while these messages are often more dire than the reality, it’s still true that they can harm your pet.
Poinsettia leaves contain a sap that can be irritating to your pet. If they lick or chew the leaves, their mouth and esophagus will likely be upset.
Ingesting the leaves can cause nausea and vomiting, but they’d have to eat a very large amount to suffer from these symptoms. While this is unlikely (the irritation usually serves as a deterrent), it’s still possible.
If the plant has been treated with any pesticides, this can also lead to similar side effects.
Severe reactions to the plant and/ or pesticides include:
Young animals are at the highest risk of suffering from the more severe symptoms, although elderly pets and those with pre-existing health conditions are also at risk.
So while poinsettias are fun to look at, they’re definitely not as tasty as your pet probably thinks. Place them on plant stands, mantles, tables, and other areas where your pet can’t take a bite.
Avoid Holly And Mistletoe
Despite their smaller size, holly and mistletoe are actually more dangerous than poinsettias and Christmas trees. Their leaves and berries have a higher toxicity level and can cause more severe symptoms.
Toxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin are just two of the substances in these plants that are dangerous to your animals. Even ingesting a small amount can harm your pet and trigger side effects that could linger for days.
- Excessive Vomiting
- Excessive Drooling
- Intestinal Irritation
- Abdominal Pain
- Lowered Blood Pressure
- Breathing Problems
If a large quantity is consumed, it can even lead to death.
Mistletoe may make for a picturesque couples moment, but it’s anything but pretty when your pet gets ahold of it. If you’re going to bring it into your home, don’t hang it up; there’s no way to guarantee that it won’t fall down and into your pet’s waiting paws.
Watch Out For Lilies And Daffodils
These plants may be more common in the springtime, but they’re also popular holiday gifts for family members with a green thumb. Many people also use them as decorations when Christmas rolls around, for a more fresh and less traditional look.
But despite their beauty, both of these plants are dangerous to animals. Both are especially toxic for cats, though dogs can also suffer from the following symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal Issues
- Kidney Failure
Every part of the plant is dangerous, from the flowers to the bulbs.
Even ingesting a small portion— just a bite or two of a petal— can have a severe and long-lasting impact on your pet’s health.
Because of this, it’s best to avoid these plants altogether during the holidays. If you receive one as a gift, be very careful to place it where your pets can’t possibly eat it. It’s also wise to consider relocating it somewhere else, such as your desk at work.
If you love the look of lilies and daffodils, consider buying a similar but safe alternative. Daisies, marigolds, violets, zinnias, and petunias are all plants that you can bring into your home with minimal worry.
Be Careful With The Christmas Cactus
The Christmas Cactus is the least toxic plant on this list. Though still dangerous, it’s extremely unlikely that ingesting the cactus or its flowers will lead to anything more severe than an upset stomach. There have been cases where dogs suffered from vomiting or diarrhea, but these are more rare.
Most owners are more preoccupied with keeping pets away from the cactus’ prickly spines— and with good reason. These spines can be more dangerous than ingesting the leaves or flowers, although side effects are still minimal when compared to those of other plants.
Plants are a beautiful addition to many homes during the holidays, either by design or as a result of thoughtful gifts. Even if you’re not a gardening savant, nearly every house has either a live or faux Christmas tree. Some even have multiple trees!
But like with any decorations, plants can be dangerous to your pets. The leaves or needles, flowers, oils, and other parts can cause a variety of symptoms that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.
To protect your four-legged family members, make sure you understand the dangers each plant poses. Keep them well out of reach and away from areas that are easily accessible by your animals. In case of emergency, have a backup plan and be aware of emergency veterinarians near you.
With a few easy precautions, you and your family can get back to your favorite holiday traditions.
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