Holiday Plants & Pet Safety

Getting a puppy – or have a pet that that loves to chew? 

If you are getting a new puppy for Christmas – or have pets that like to chew – it’s a good idea to know which common holiday plants are pet-friendly, or not.

Take the holiday standby poinsettias, for example.  They are regularly touted and assumed by many to be poisonous.  That is flat out urban myth.  Studies at the Mayo Clinic and info posted online by ColoradoStateUniversity in their Fact Sheets are clear that the bracts of leaves of poinsettias are not seriously toxic. 

The milky sap can be mildly irritating to people with sensitive skin – particularly people with latex sensitivity.  Simply washing off the sap with a mild soap usually solves the problem of itching and irritation.  Consuming large amounts of the flowers and leaves can upset tender pet stomachs – but the plants aren’t deadly.  Enjoy and share this seasonal plant staple in your holiday giving – and if you have a new puppy, just keep it out of reach.

Plants that aren’t pet friendly

Amaryllis is a popular seasonal favorite, but beware of its toxicity if you have pets.  All parts of the plant are toxic.  Chewing or eating the flower or stem can cause vomiting.  But the bulb is the most dangerous part of this plant.  Chewing or consuming the bulb can result in hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and neurological issues for your pet.  

American holly is another holiday standby that’s best to avoid if you have pets.  This holly has potentially toxic compounds that can cause gastrointestinal irritation.  Definitely keep it out of reach of your family’s pets.

Mistletoe berries and leaves can cause mild gastritis if chewed or consumed.  But plastic berries are a more serious threat.  They are often packaged with mistletoe to enhance its interest and color.  If your pet ingests the plastic, you may end up with a visit to the vet to induce vomiting or in some cases, to perform surgery if the plastic remains in the pet’s digestive tract.  

The flowering succulent, kalanchoe, is another winter-time favorite because of its showy blooms.  Yet it can cause gastrointestinal problems, too.  Place it out of reach of the puppy or in a room that’s inaccessible to your pets.

Enjoy the seasonal color and interest these holiday plants offer if you have a pet-free environment.  Otherwise, play it safe with poinsettias and evergreens that are pet-friendly.  Rely on the expertise from the staff of your local garden center to help you avoid plants that might be a threat.

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