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Winter Holiday Plants - Are They Safe?

With Thanksgiving past, for many, thoughts have moved onto the winter holidays.  Family gatherings, good food, and good cheer often make this a favorite time of year.  Crisp weather, giving and receiving gifts, and decorating the house play a big role in traditions that many families have.

The ornamental plants that adorn our houses during this season are beautiful, but some can pose a hazard to our pets.  If you have holiday plants in or around your home, please consider the following information regarding these common holiday plants:

Poinsettia – The sap of the leaves is an irritant that will lead to nausea/vomiting.  However, the unpleasant taste of the sap usually prevents pets from eating large quantities of this plant, so significant toxicity is typically limited.  If the plants have been treated with pesticides, this could be an additional mechanism of toxicity, which would be dependent on the type of pesticide used.

Mistletoe – The leaves and berries of this plant are toxic, even in dried form, and should be kept out of access range for all pets.  Significant gastrointestinal irritation, low blood pressure, breathing problems, and unusual behavior including hallucinations can be seen.  Large ingestions can result in seizures and be fatal. 

Holly - The leaves and berries of this plant are also toxic, even in dried form, and should be kept out of access range for all pets.  Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and abdominal pain can be seen.  Large ingestions can be fatal. 

Christmas Cactus – Neither the flowers nor the leaves of the Christmas Cactus are specifically toxic to dogs or cats, although they may case mild GI irritation with subsequent vomiting and diarrhea.

Amaryllis – The beautiful flowers of this plant make it quite attractive to humans and pets alike. All parts of the plant are toxic and ingestion may cause GI irritation with vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; as well as lethargy and tremors.

Christmas Tree – The ornaments (tinsel, lights, etc) on a tree can be very appealing to our pets and may cause harm if chewed or ingested.  The tree itself can harm our pets as well.  Ingestion of the oils produced by some trees can be very irritating to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach resulting in drooling and nausea.  Ingestion of the pine needles may cause irritation or obstruction.  Pets should not be allowed to drink from the water reservoir if chemicals are added to it.

Chances are, some of these plants may make an appearance in many of our homes over the next month.  If they do, make sure to take precautions to keep all 4 legged members of the family safe.

Happy Holidays!!

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