Adding Christmas plants to your space is a great way to give your house some colour and vibrancy.With the Christmas period approaching and the big day just around the corner, plants such as Mistletoe and holly are back to bring good cheer.
However, there are some Christmas plants known to be a danger to pets as they can have toxic effects on your cat or dog if ingested.
Many of our favourite, trendy Christmas plants can cause harmful symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.
Among the most popular of the holiday plants is the Euphorbia pulcherrima, more widely known as poinsettia.
Though this plant is not toxic, it can cause some unwanted effects for both humans and pets. It’s sap can cause skin irritation in humans, sometimes resulting in a mild, itchy rash.
For cats and dogs however, the effects can be more severe, causing gastrointestinal upset if enough of the plant is ingested. So if you have a cat or dog, it’s best to give the pretty poinsettia a miss and completely remove it from your space, as even a nibble can pose a risk.
Holly is another Christmas plant favourite, sung about in many of our favourite joyful jingles. But if you have a pet around, it’s a no-no. Saponin glycosides, methylxanthines, and cyanogens are the toxic principles found in holly and they can do your cat some harm. Though cats are unlikely to chew on holly leaves due to their sharp spines, it’s better to completely remove all Holly from your house, if you have any.
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Holly can cause symptoms such as hypersalivation (drooling), loss of appetite and vomiting. Make sure you skip the holly this winter, to avoid any risk to your feline.
Other Christmas plants that pose a risk to your pets include:
- Azalea (Rhododendron) – Known for their high number of blooms, azaleas contain substances called grayantoxins, but these beauties can be toxic for both people and pets.
- Yew (Taxus) – A yew is an evergreen tree or shrub that grows red berries, but the chemicals found in yew called taxines, can be life threatening.
- Boxwood (Buxus) – The evergreen plant boxwood is better to be avoided. If ingested by your pet, it can cause effects such as dehydration.
- Amaryllis – Amaryllis produces beautiful flowers, some in a deep Christmas red, but it is also potentially toxic for people and pets.
- Cyclamen – The chemical found in cyclamen, called triterpenoid saponins, although usually hidden in the soil of a pot can cause issues if your pet tries to dig into it.
- Kalanchoe – Kalanchoe is a very popular houseplant, however, it can cause gastric upset. It’s worth steering clear of this one if you have pets.
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) – The calcium oxalate crystals present in peace lily, despite the friendly name, can be hazardous to your pet.
- Mistletoe – The very well known mistletoe contains several chemicals that can be poisonous and lead to gastrointestinal issues.
- Chrysanthemum – Though only mildly toxic, this beautiful and bright plant can be harmful to your feline.
- Gardenia – The white and fragrant blooms of gardenia can be bad for your pet’s health due to the genioposide and gardenoside found in it.
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What should I do if my pet has ingested or been in contact with a potentially toxic plant?
If your pet ingests a toxic Christmas plant, watch out for symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea, shaking, lack of coordination, coughing, sneezing, problems breathing, or seizures.
Some reactions can take longer to show than others, and larger pets may be less likely to actually get sick from what they ingested.
If you think your pet has been affected:
- Call the vet as soon as possible.
- Find a safe space to put your pet in – manage your pet’s stress by putting him or her in a safe space, and moving the pet away from the poisonous substance.
- Try to keep your pet from grooming him or herself – this can cause the toxin to spread across their body and cause more harm.
But fear not. There are plenty of other Christmas houseplants that could brighten up your space and are safe for pets. Some of these include:
- Christmas cactus
- African violet
- Phalanopsis orchid
- Boston fern
- Prayer plant
- Spider plant
- Swedish ivy
- Polka dot plant