The holiday season is upon us once again. Decorating for the holidays most always includes using plants and flowers to beautify our environment.
There are many plants and flowers that are toxic to pets but only a few of the most popular holiday plants will be discussed here. It is important to know what parts of the plant or flower are toxic and what symptoms your pet may experience.
• Holly is used in making wreaths or decorating mantles. It is the berries that are toxic. The severity of the symptoms usually correlates with how many berries are eaten. The symptoms seen after ingestion are vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
• Mistletoe is customarily hung in doorways so that when two people are under the mistletoe at the same time they are obliged to kiss. The berries are toxic but some sources say that the leaves and stem are more toxic than the berries. Either way, it is important to make sure that these are not ingested. This plant can cause significant vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, decreased heart rate, erratic behavior, sudden collapse and even death.
• Amaryllis (with red or red and white flowers) is very popular during the holiday season. It is the flower that is most toxic. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, depressed appetite, excessive salivation, tremors, and sometimes abdominal pain.
• Poinsettia is probably the most frequently seen holiday plant. It is the sap from the leaves (not the flower) that can be irritating if ingested. If enough is eaten it can cause vomiting but it is basically non-toxic.
• Christmas cactus only blooms around Christmas time and is generally used for center pieces. This plant is mainly toxic only in large quantities. Vomiting and diarrhea sometimes with blood and depression are the typical symptoms.
• Christmas rose is a plant with a white flower. The entire plant is toxic. The most commonly seen symptoms are diarrhea with blood, abdominal pain, vomiting, and delirium.
• Jerusalem cherry is a plant that has orange and red berries and is typically used as a centerpiece. These berries are extremely toxic especially in the green and yellow states. Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, mouth ulcers, shock, and even death.
It is extremely important to contact your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic if you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic plant. The more information you can give your veterinarian the better. Knowing what type of plant was ingested, how much was ingested, the time of ingestion, and what symptoms your pet is showing will help your veterinarian take appropriate action.
Kim Donovan, D.V.M., is an associate veterinarian and medical director at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital in Seminole with 13 years of experience and a special interest in feline medicine and dermatology.