Ten toxic plants to keep away from your dog this Christmas

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Christmas is on the way and many of us are starting to decorate our homes with plants – although experts advise not to kiss too much under the mistletoe! Kiss or no kiss, though, dog owners need to keep in mind that mistletoe is toxic to dog – and so are several plants we associate with Christmas cheer.

Ten of the most toxic winter plants for pets include:

  • Holly – If the berries or spiked-edge leaves from a holly plant are ingested, this can result in irritation of the mouth, drooling, gastrointestinal upset (such as vomiting), and diarrhoea. It may also cause excessive head-shaking if consumed in large quantities.
  • Mistletoe – Though varied in types, the berries from mistletoe contain chemicals including polysaccharides, alkaloids, and lectins which are harmful to both dogs and cats. When ingested in small quantities, it can cause gastrointestinal irritation such as vomiting and abdominal pain. Consumed in large quantities, it may cause abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure and incoordination.

Toxic Christmas plants

  • Poinsettia plants – Widely known for their bright red and green festive foliage, the milky white sap from the coloured leaves contains a chemical which could cause not only nausea, vomiting, drooling and diarrhoea, but also irritation in the skin, mouth and oesophagus. 
  • Christmas trees – If the pine needles from Christmas trees are chewed, the oils released may cause irritations in the mouth as well as stomach upset. Due to the prickly nature of the needle, these could also be hazardous to the mouth, throat and stomach if ingested.
  • Ivy (Hedera species) – Ivy can cause severe skin irritation if pets come into direct contact with this plant. If ingested, ivy can also cause stomach upsets.
  • Amaryllis – The whole amaryllis plant contains toxic substances, but higher quantities are contained in the bulb, so be careful of pets who like to dig. If consumed, they may experience severe gastrointestinal upsets (such as vomiting and abdominal pain), loss of appetite, lethargy and tremors.

  • Lilies – Dangerous for both cats and dogs, if any part of a lily is ingested (even in small quantities) this could cause severe gastrointestinal damage, which may lead to kidney failure for cats.
  • Laurel – Laurel plants including bay laurels (which are often used in cooking) and cherry laurel, contain toxins located in all parts of the shrub which cause vomiting, abdominal pain, hypotension and in extreme cases, muscle weakness and even seizures.
  • Snowdrops – These small white flowers contain toxins in their stems and leaves, with the highest concentration in the bulb. When ingested, they can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, incoordination as well as a drop in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Yew – All parts of this plant, (including the leaves and berries) are highly poisonous as they contain taxines. When ingested they can cause vomiting, weakness, breathing difficulties and in critical cases, life threatening change in heart rate and blood pressure.

Salman Haqqi, pet insurance expert from money.co.uk, comments: “Pets are often curious creatures and can be found chewing anything around the house, especially at a young age. While decorative plants can add a bit of a life to your interior during winter, it’s important to remember that these could present problems if consumed by your furry family members.

“Taking the necessary steps, such as placing plants out of reach or adding barriers will help to ensure that pets do not ingest or come into contact with them. If your four-legged friend does consume a toxic house plant, it’s important to seek expert help and advice from your vet as soon as possible.”

Careful as we may be to keep anything harmful out of reach, accidents can happen; if your pets consume any of these toxic plants, get immediately in touch with your vet.

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