Whether we are decking the halls with boughs of holly or celebrating the arrival of spring, many seasonal blooms can cause distress in dogs or cats who are inclined to nibble or nuzzle them.
Ranging from mild irritation to fatal reactions it is imperative to know which plants can put our furry friends in jeopardy. Dangerous plants include traditional Christmas trees and plants, Easter flowers, and even spring garden flowers, seedlings, sprouts, and bulbs.
The 8 most dangerous holiday plants for dogs and cats are:
- Lilies of every kind
- Christmas Trees
- Christmas and Easter Cactus
- Tulips and Daffodils
Knowing the signs and symptoms of poisoning can help us to be more aware of our pets’ well-being and prepare us in the event of ingestion, or an adverse reaction to our otherwise festive florals and perky plants. Other dangers can lurk behind the glitter.
Obviously, ingesting poisonous plants around the house and garden can be detrimental to our pets’ health, but other dangers exist as well. The risk is not always from eating the plant! The danger might come from rubbing up against it or knocking it over or pulling it over onto oneself.
Eight of the Most Dangerous Holiday Plants for Dogs and Cats
Lilies of Every Kind
Lilies are very lethal, in every single variety: Easter lilies, Daylilies, even the innocuous-sounding Peace lily. What’s more, every part of the plant is toxic. Eating even a small amount of the plant, or licking a few specks of pollen can cause lethal kidney failure and even death. The first sign of lily poisoning would be vomiting, depression, drooling, and collapse.
In the case of suspected poisoning, you should seek emergency veterinary care for your animal, and bring the flower with you if possible, to assist in treatment. Lilies of any type must be extremely limited in cat-friendly homes. If present, they should be carefully monitored. It is generally not recommended to grow them around cats and kittens.
Poinsettias are often thought to be highly toxic to pets, but the truth is, the sap is only a mild irritant to most healthy pets. Exceptions would be very young kittens, elderly cats, and any cat that is seriously dehydrated. Effects of exposure to the sap could cause vomiting, excess drooling, and diarrhea in this fragile group. It is best to keep cats away from them altogether.
Mistletoe leaves or berries cause mild symptoms in small quantities but are quite toxic in large amounts. All parts of the plant are toxic: from the stem to the berry, including the leaves. Ingestion of berries often results in minor gastric upset or abdominal pain, drooling, or vomiting. Large doses can lower blood pressure, induce seizures, or even cause death. Keep out of their reach!
Holly is poisonous to people and pets and can cause vomiting and diarrhea when the berries are ingested. Other symptoms are lip-smacking, head shaking, excess drooling, and drowsiness. Intestinal injuries may occur if the spiny leaves are eaten. Best to keep them away from pets.
Christmas Tree Needles
Christmas tree needles, though not often eaten by dogs or cats can cause irritation which leads to excessive drooling, and stomach upset. The sap is also an irritant. Our gaily decorated trees may fall on the unsuspecting cat who unwisely decides to climb them. Fire or electrocution, although rare, are also a possibility.
Another thing to consider is the water at the base of the Christmas tree. While it may not contain fertilizer or chemicals, it often contains bacteria which causes gastrointestinal distress and discomfort in pets who take a sip of it. It’s best to ensure our cats don’t have access to the Christmas tree at all, if possible. Consider an artificial tree, rather than a fresh one.
Christmas and Easter Cactus
Christmas and Easter Cactus are non-toxic and pretty harmless for pets. If the spiny, fibrous leaves are eaten, however, it could make your pet very sick. Vomiting and large amounts of diarrhea can result. Keep these away from Fido!
Tulip and Daffodil Bulbs
Tulip and Daffodil bulbs are the most poisonous part of these spring beauties. The flowers and leaves of both Tulips and Daffodils may irritate a cat’s mouth and result in vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
The real perils are the crystals on the outside of the bulbs of both tulips and daffodils. They are particularly dangerous for cats, who might rub their faces up against them, leading to dizziness, upset stomach, abdominal pain, and in some cases convulsions and death. Store bulbs far out of pets’ reach and discourage contact in the garden.
Shamrocks are the epitome of luck and good fortune, but unfortunately can be very unlucky for pets. The bitter taste of shamrocks usually discourage sampling, but the results can be dire if they do.
Some symptoms of ingestion are excessive drooling, diarrhea, loss of appetite but can also present as tremors, weakness, and lethargy. More serious issues are blood in the urine, or changes in thirst or urination. Though rare, shamrocks can also cause heart problems and difficulty breathing.
Holiday Decoration Safety Tips:
It’s important to consider all the “members” of your family. Whether you have small children, puppies, or kittens at home (and possibly all at the same time!) the precautions to keep them safe are much the same. Nothing that can topple over on someone, nothing that can shock anyone, or start a fire, and you certainly want to avoid anything that makes anyone sick.
Water from the tree base and flower vases could be contaminated and you wouldn’t want either pets or children in that. So, a good rule of thumb might be to use the same guidelines we would use to childproof our homes to pet-proof it as well. Keep attractive nuisances up high out of reach. Be sure plants and decorative floral displays are situated securely so they don’t topple over, causing injury.
Cat lovers may wish to switch to an artificial Christmas tree to eliminate the hazards of a live tree; such as knocking it over, breaking ornaments, getting a shock, or worse. Artificial trees can be just right for your space, and come in hundreds of sizes and varieties. There are many lovely silk flowers and arrangements available, as well as artificial holly, and mistletoe that can be displayed without concern.
If fresh Mistletoe is used, it should be located up high and well out of the kitty’s reach. Consider putting holly or mistletoe on a wreath on your front door. Smaller Yuletide trees, unbreakable ornaments, and pet-friendly garland and trimmings will ensure that everyone has a wonderful holiday season.
The spring and Easter holidays can still be colorful and bright, too. Thoughtfully purchased flowers and plants that are safe for our precious pets will bring joy and peace of mind.
What other common plants found around the home and garden might be toxic for pets?
The succulent Kalanchoe, Oleander, Dieffenbachia, Baby’s breath, and Sago palm are also very dangerous plants to have around animals. Even tomato plants can pose a threat. In the garden, azaleas, amaryllis, aloe, and ivy can sicken our pets.
What plants can we safely grow, while being mindful of our pets’ health?
African violets, Roses, and Orchids can safely add color and beauty to your home and yard and do not pose a problem for most pets. Spider plants and Boston ferns are also good choices. Pansies and sunflowers, petunias, and marigolds provide a safe garden, with plenty of pizzazz.
When to seek help
Seek veterinary care if you suspect your curious canines or feisty felines have bitten off more than they can (or should) chew. You should seek immediate medical attention for your animal when they display obvious signs of distress.
Vomiting and diarrhea and even drooling can lead to dehydration and weakness. Tremors, convulsions, or seizures should alert you to a medical emergency.
Contact the ASPCA Poison Control if you suspect your pet has eaten something suspect or displays any symptoms described above, or even anything out of the ordinary. A phone call to your vet can ease your mind and give you some direction.