Holiday Hazards #2 – Special Plant Edition

A few weeks ago we blogged about Holiday Hazards that face pets, and this week we wanted to talk a little more specifically about plants that are dangerous to pets – especially plants that are common during the holidays.  The ASPCA just posted an article with a lot of good information and photos on spring and winter holiday plants:  “How Dangerous are Winter and Spring Holiday Plants to Pets?”  (click here for article).   We’ll highlight some of the major points in this blog, but it’s a great article read for yourself!

Here are some of the winter and spring holiday plants that are hazardous to animals:

  • Poinsettias – These beautiful plants have leaves that range from red to white that are often mistaken for flowers.  Their flowers are actually tiny and yellow.  These plants produce a sap that can be very irritating to animals.   Usually ingestion of this plant causes GI upset such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
  • Christmas cacti – Although this plant is considered a cactus, it is not a desert plant. This tropical plant features flattened branches with spiny notches at the margins.  The flowers at the end of the branches can be a variety of colors.   This plant is not highly toxic, but can cause mild gastrointestinal upset.
  • Mistletoe – mistletoe is in the genus Phoradendron.  Mistletoe plants in the wild grow as vines that suck water and nutrients from the trees on which they grow.   One toxic effect that Mistletoe can have is on the heart.  Mistletoe can cause the heart rate to slow leading to a low blood pressure.   The most common signs of mistletoe intoxication are depression and gastrointestinal upset.  More severe signs such as severe blood pressure drops and death have been reported.   
  • Holly – This is another beautiful plant that is commonly used to decorate for the holidays.  Ingestion of this plant can cause head shaking, lip smacking, salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea.    Sometimes rinsing the mouth can help alleviate some of these signs. 
  • Shamrocks – These are commonly purchased around St. Patrick’s day.  These plants produce a substance called oxalates.  These oxalates can accumulate in the kidneys and damage them.  Similar to the other plants mentioned, the most common signs relate to GI upset.  Animals that eat large amounts of shamrocks should be monitored for kidney damage.
  • Easter lilies – These innocent looking flowers are actually highly toxic to cats.  Easter lilies, Japanese show lilies, rubrum lilies, and an assortment of other lilies cause kidney failure in cats.   These are so toxic, one leaf might be all it takes to be lethal to a cat.  GI upset are the first signs noticed after ingestion.  Over the next 3 days, kidney values on blood work can continue to rise.  If your cat has eaten any part of a lily, please schedule an appointment ASAP.  Postponing treatment for more than 18 hours may result in death from the kidneys failure. 

If your pet eats any of these plants, feel free to call us to schedule an appointment!   Happy Holidays!

ASPCA’s Toxic Plant Article:  click here.