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5 Toxic Holiday Plants for Dogs

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Poisonous Plants during the holiday season

Poinsettias, mistletoe, and mums, oh my! When the holidays roll around, many folks decorate their homes with festive foliage to boost holiday cheer. But while you may love the look of these plants, some can be dangerous for your dog. Before bringing any new plant into your space, it’s essential to ensure it is pet safe.

If you’re thinking about decorating your home with plants this holiday season, here are five plants to avoid, as well as some dog-friendly alternatives. (For even more poisonous plants, check out the ASPCA website.)

Related: 10 Houseplants That Are Poisonous to Your Dog — And Safe Alternatives

1. Poinsettias

Simply stunning, poinsettias add a festive pop of vibrant red or snowy white to your holiday décor. However, they might spell trouble if your pup decides to munch on the leaves.

While many people believe that poinsettias are deadly to pets and kids, this is only in extreme cases. The sap that contributes to the poinsettia’s brightly colored leaves can irritate the esophagus and mouth if consumed, leading to nausea and vomiting. However, if eaten in large quantities, poinsettia plants can be toxic, though, most dogs will be deterred from eating more than a small sampling due to the irritating taste.

Also, keep in mind, if the poinsettia you brought home has been treated with a pesticide, your dog has a higher risk of getting sick if he eats the plant. This is especially true for young puppies.

A safer alternative to a poinsettia is pesticide-free white or red orchids.

2. Holly and Mistletoe

Nothing embodies the holiday spirit more than strands of green and red holly. Also known as English holly or winterberry, this plant is not safe for pets. The spiky leaves and toxic saponins can cause a myriad of problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, drooling, and head shaking. Although consuming holly is not typically fatal to dogs, it will cause a great deal of discomfort.

Much like holly, mistletoe can be toxic to dogs and can cause tummy troubles, a sudden drop in blood pressure, breathing issues, and even hallucinations. If eaten in large quantities, mistletoe can lead to seizures and even death. Luckily, mistletoe is generally hung from a doorway or ceiling, making it inaccessible to pets.

Instead of the real deal, consider decking the halls with faux strands of holly. Just be sure to keep them out of your dog’s reach.

3. Christmas Trees

One of the best parts of the holiday season is garnishing a big, fluffy tree with ornaments and lights. However, the sap from pines and firs can cause skin irritation in your pooch. If your dog decides to take a drink from the Christmas tree stand dish, the stagnant water could be brimming with bacteria, causing serious illness. Additionally, the sharp needles can perforate your pet’s throat and stomach if consumed.

Instead of a traditional Christmas tree, consider getting a smaller tabletop tree, a wooden tree, or a faux plant. Or finding a way to keep your dog away from the tree, if known to take a liking to it. 

Related: Petiquette 101: What to Do if Your Dog Destroys Someone Else’s Home

4. Christmas Cactus

Fun and festive, the indoor Christmas cactus always blooms during the winter months, just in time for Christmas. The bright red flowers add a nice touch of color to any room. But despite being non-toxic to your dog, it can cause skin irritation in hypersensitive pets. And like any plant material, the Christmas cactus can cause mild stomach discomfort if ingested. Be sure to keep this plant, as well as all other cacti, far away from your pets.

Instead of cacti, opt for a rosy succulent that doesn’t have any prickly spikes.

5. Amaryllis

A dangerous beauty, the amaryllis plant or belladonna, is a holiday favorite. However, this plant is extremely toxic to dogs. The amaryllis contains lycorine and other dangerous substances that can cause lethargy, tremors, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, and more in both dogs and cats. The most dangerous part of this plant is its bulb.

Instead of buying an Amaryllis, get a white orchid instead.

Keeping Your Dog Safe This Holiday Season

To keep your pup safe during the holidays, always do thorough research before bringing any new plant into your home. Again, the ASPCA’s Poisonous Plant page is a great starting point.  Always keep your houseplant out of your dog’s reach. If you think your dog ate a poisonous plant, call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 1-888-426-4435 right away.

Related: How to Puppy Proof Your Home Without Sacrificing Style

By Stephanie Weaver

Stephanie Weaver is a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia, PA. When she's not locked down to her laptop, she can be found riding horses or playing with her Boston Terrier mix, Steve.

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