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Christmas Plants to Avoid

Over the Christmas period, as well as tinsel and baubles, many of us tend to decorate our homes with an abundance of festive greenery. We hang wreaths of ivy on our doors, place brightly coloured poinsettia on our windowsills, dangle mistletoe in doorways and bring trees into our homes to adorn with ornaments; but did you know that some of these seasonal plants can make your dog ill?


A number of popular festive plants can be harmful to your dog. These include:

  • Poinsettia

  • Holly

  • Mistletoe

  • Ivy

  • Potpourri

  • Christmas trees

Is poinsettia poisonous to dogs?


Poinsettia has a reputation for being highly toxic, but the stories of how poisonous it is are often exaggerated. Although Poinsettia is a type of euphorbia (a family of plants known to be poisonous), the effects of this particular plant are usually only mild. Its milky white sap is an irritant that can cause dogs to dribble, be sick or sometimes have diarrhoea. Although these effects are usually only mild, it’s still best to keep these colourful festive plant out of paws reach.


Are holly berries dangerous to dogs?


The spiky leaves of this plant will usually prevent your dog from eating a significant amount, but even if it did, it’s unusual for holly to cause any major toxic effects. All parts of the holly bush do contain a poisonous chemical, but it usually only causes irritation in the mouth, vomiting or diarrhoea. The spikes from the leaves could cause some nasty scratches and pricks, so it’s best to keep this plant away from your dog.


Is Mistletoe poisonous?


Although certain parts of this plant do contain toxins, this festive shrub is generally considered to be of low toxicity. Most animals that eat parts of mistletoe don’t show any signs, but others might develop drooling, a tummy ache, be sick or have diarrhoea. A few rare cases have shown signs of being wobbly on their feet, tremors or fits. Although most dogs are usually at low risk of poisoning its best to keep mistletoe away from pets.


Is ivy dangerous to dogs?


This festive vine is often found amongst other plants on Christmas wreaths or may even be used in displays around the house. If eaten, Ivy can cause a tummy upset, while contact with the skin can cause severe irritation or allergic contact dermatitis.


Can Potpourri hurt dogs?


Potpourri is made up of a number of dried plants and flowers. These fragrant decorations may cause, at the very least, vomiting and diarrhoea. How toxic your potpourri is will depend on which dried plants have been used, which is something often difficult to identify, especially as the dried plants are often artificially coloured. Potpourri usually includes harder items, like pine cones or bark, and these could get stuck in your dog's throat, cause breathing difficulties or cause a blockage in their gut. Signs of an obstruction may include being sick, being tired, your dog being off their food, not pooing or finding it difficult to do so.


Is Christmas tree sap poisonous to dogs?


Most species of Christmas tree are of low toxicity, but oils from the needles may be irritating to the mouth and stomach, causing excessive dribbling, vomiting and diarrhoea if chewed. Needles from these trees are sharp and could cause physical injury in your dog’s mouth and throat. To help protect your dog from eating the needles you could use a tree guard or put up a dog gate around the tree.


What to do if you think your dog has eaten something it shouldn't have


If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn't have, speak to your vet straight away.

Never try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.


Things to tell your vet - In an emergency you can help your veterinary practice make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be treated by them and, if so, what the best treatment would be. Where possible you should provide your veterinary practice with information on:

  • What poison you think your dog has been exposed to (e.g. chocolate, ibuprofen etc.). Include any product names, or lists of ingredients if relevant

  • How much they may have been exposed to (i.e. 500mg, 500ml, one tablet etc, even approximations may help)

  • When your dog was exposed to the poison (i.e. five minutes, five hours or five days ago)

  • If your dog has been unwell and, if so, what clinical effects have been seen

It is easier for a vet to care for a poisoned dog if it is treated sooner rather than later. If you are in any doubt, don't wait for your dog to become unwell before calling for advice.


What to take to your vet

If you do need to take your dog to your veterinary practice, try to take along any relevant packaging, or a sample of the poison, e.g. parts of plant or fungi. Always make sure that you are protected and cannot be poisoned in turn.


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