Pet Talk: Winter plants can harm pets |

Pet Talk: Winter plants can harm pets

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM
Pet Talk
Certain plants common for holidays can cause anything from an upset stomach to life-threatening issues for pets.
Special to the Daily | iStockphoto

I love having plants around the home, especially those that are seasonal for the holidays. However, it’s very important to remember that there are several plants that you should be aware of that are poisonous to our pets.

These plants can cause anything from an upset stomach to life-threatening issues and it’s important to know which ones are dangerous.

Poinsettias and Christmas cactus

Let’s start with poinsettias — I’m already seeing them in Costco. These plants have red, white, pink or mottled leaves that are frequently mistaken for flowers. Fortunately for dogs and cats, the toxicity of the plant has been greatly exaggerated.

The most common signs of poinsettia exposure in dogs and cats include vomiting, not eating and lethargy. If you see your pet ingesting part of this plant, then be sure to put it in a place where they cannot get at it and keep an eye on them for any signs of sickness.

One of my favorite plants is a Christmas cactus — I love to see mine bloom. Another name for this plant is the “Crab’s Claw Cactus.” If your pet ingests this plant, then you may see some vomiting, diarrhea, not eating or lethargy. However, this plant isn’t considered toxic to your pet. Again, do not allow your pet to eat this plant and if they do, then keep a close eye on them for an upset stomach.


Luckily, this next plant is typically hung out of reach of our pets — mistletoe. Mistletoe has various levels of toxicity depending on what species we are dealing with, however most species we have here in the U.S. are not toxic to our pets. The most common clinical signs seen in dogs that ingest it include vomiting and lethargy, however much more serious side effects have been reported in humans. What’s most important with mistletoe is to keep it way out of reach of your pets.

Holly can be quite irritating to your pet if they ingest it. The most common clinical signs include excessive salivation, not eating, vomiting and diarrhea. If you see your pet ingest this, then try to rinse their mouth out and call your veterinarian as they may recommend treatment.

Lilies are most often seen around Easter time, however they are a beautiful plant that is available year-round. All species of lilies are extremely toxic to cats. All parts of a lily are considered toxic and ingestion of just a tiny piece of a leaf can cause death. Lilies cause renal failure in cats and immediate treatment by your veterinarian is necessary in order to prevent death. If you have cats, then it is recommended that you never have lilies in your home as there is no way to be sure they won’t chew on part of the plant.

All of these are plants that are commonly encountered during fall and winter holidays and it’s important to know what to look for if your pet gets into them. If you ever have a concern or question, then be sure to contact your veterinarian, as we are always more than happy to give you advice — better to be safe than sorry. Have a happy and safe holiday season.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.

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