Here's what to do if your pet treats your holiday greenery as grub and how to keep poisonous plants out of their paws.
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Poinsettias aren't the only holiday greenery that can turn your pets green. While they look pretty and festive, there are a variety of familiar flora that can be toxic to cats and dogs. Before you buy a bunch of live plants and sprigs this Christmas, consider how they might impact your pet's health.

which holiday plants are toxic to pets infographic
Credit: Kailey Whitman

Christmas Trees

Whether you pick the perfect pine, fir, or spruce for your Christmas tree, you don't really need to worry about toxicity. But as you might have guessed, tree needles don't go down easily and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If eaten in large quantities, they can even obstruct your pet's gastrointestinal system. Try putting up a pet gate around the tree and keep up with vacuuming fallen needles off the floor. Christmas tree water is a no-go as well and it can make your curious pet sick.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe can lead to kissing in humans, but if eaten by your furry friend, the ASPCA says the poisonous plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, breathing problems, and low heart rate.

orange cat staring at a decorated christmas tree
Credit: Brittany / Adobe Stock

Amaryllis

While easy on the eyes, amaryllis isn't easy on the stomachs of dogs and cats. These popular floral gifts are toxic to pets, with clinical signs that include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, stomach pain, drooling, lack or loss of appetite, and tremors.

Poinsettias

Poinsettias are poisonous to both dogs and cats, but they've erroneously gained a reputation for being far more dangerous than they really are. In reality, they're more likely to lead to mild gastrointestinal problems than a trip to the ER. Still, it's best to keep them up out of your pet's reach

Holly

Both the leaves and the berries of your boughs of holly are toxic to dogs and cats, though the toxicity is low. This prickly plant looks great decking your halls but can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy if it decks the lining of your pet's stomach.

How Can I Tell if My Pet is Sick or Poisoned?

Margot Vahrenwald, DVM, owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center in Denver lists severity and progression as possible indicators of whether your pet has eaten something toxic or is simply suffering from an upset stomach. For example, mild nausea and vomiting that improve after a few hours probably aren't signs that your pet has been poisoned.

Still, Vahrenwald's a proponent of being safe rather than sorry. "Because our pets can't tell us what's wrong, an owner should never hesitate to call their veterinarian or seek urgent or emergent care if ingestion of a possibly toxic plant has occurred," she explains.

If you catch your pet eating a poisonous plant or even have a hunch that your dog or cat has gotten into something toxic, get immediate help. Vahrenwald recommends calling your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary facility, or poison control. If the latter, you have three options:

Vahrenwald notes that consultation fees may apply if you call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or the Pet Poison Helpline. However, you will be given a document you can take to your veterinarian that outlines the care your pet needs to receive.

Protect Your Pet from Toxic Plants

"Pet owners should always pet- and babyproof their plants," says Vahrenwald. "Best practices include simply keeping plants out of reach and checking whether a plant or flower is toxic before bringing it into the home." But keep in mind that, as is the case with the Christmas cactus, non-toxic doesn't mean harmless. Naturally, cats can be especially tricky to keep out of harm's way due to their advanced acrobatic abilities. So if your feline has a particularly curious palate, you might sleep better by sticking with fake plants.