Toxic or not so much?

by: Jennifer Oldfield

Every year at Christmas, I look at the beautiful poinsettias and wish I could have one at my house.  And every year in the back of my mind I think “no, they are toxic to my pets”.  But are they really?  Or has the poinsettia just gotten a very bad rap all these years?


The flowers of the poinsettia are not the part of the plant that is of concern, it is the leaves and the stems.  When “damaged” they release a latex sap that causes irritation when ingested.  This irritation will most often cause your pet to vomit and maybe have a bout of diarrhea, however, it will not likely cause other life-threatening side effects.

Now what about the rest of the plants most often enjoyed at this time of year:



The berries of this plant are the the toxic portion.  They contain theobromine, a caffeine derivative.  If your pet managed to eat only one berry it isn’t likely they will have ingested enough theobromine to cause a reaction, however if they ingest a lot, it is important that you contact us right away.  Significant increase in hyperactivity with an elevated heart rate are the initial effects.



Although mistletoe is not that commonly seen here it is important to note that the berries of this plant are toxic.   If only a small amount is ingested it may just act as an irritant, however with greater quantities seizures and death can occur.  Please contact us if your pet eats any of the berries from this plant.

Winter Lilies_Large

Lilies (toxic only to cats)

Of all the holiday season plants, lilies which come in many varieties and colours – although beautiful – are the most dangerous.  Ingestion by cats of any part of this plant (flower, leaves, stem, pollen) can result in acute kidney failure.  Even the water from the vase can contain the harmful toxin.   This is actually one plant that if you have cats is probably best not brought into the home.  If your cat should ingest any part (including licking the pollen from their coat) contact us immediately.

The biggest part to ensuring your pet’s safety is to keep an eye on them.  Keep harmful (or potentially harmful) plants out of their reach.  If you have any questions or concerns contact us immediately.

Just a reminder also that presents under the tree can pose a health risk to your pet as well.  Gift wrapped chocolates, nut & fruit trays and other potentially edible items should be kept up and out of sight until the last moments before Christmas gifts are unwrapped.  Watch cats that like to eat ribbon too… this fun to play with item is a real health concern if ingested.  (Mine LOVE trying to eat curling ribbon).

I have a dog who at the in-laws was obsessed under the tree, I was assured there was nothing under there that she could get in to.  Well in a matter of minutes she came up with a now partially unwrapped box of liquor chocolates that had  been buried deep beneath many other presents.   Pets have that amazing sense of smell, sometimes it is a blessing and sometimes… not so much.

Do your best to keep your pet’s safe this holiday season and again, contact us if you have any questions.  306-545-7211

(I guess this means I may get a poinsettia after all!)

Additional information source:

Pet Poison Helpline

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