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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Poisonous Holiday Plants

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

As we gather with family and friends this holiday season there are a few plants that should be kept away from our pets. We get these plants a lot as gifts over the holidays and not only can they make pets sick, but they may also cause an unexpected trip to the vet. There are many plants that are toxic to pets but today I’m going to highlight three of them.

Poinsettias are a popular gift-giving plant during the winter holidays. They are considered mildly toxic. Poinsettias may cause some GI upset with drooling, vomiting and/or the occasional diarrhea. If the sap gets on the pet’s skin, it can cause skin irritation. Luckily, medical treatment is rarely necessary unless the clinical signs are severe. 

Mistletoe is another plant that is common to have around during the holidays. There are several types of mistletoe that are toxic to pets. In general, the American mistletoe is less toxic than the European types. When ingested, mistletoe can cause GI upset. Clinical signs may include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. If large quantities are ingested, there can be more severe clinical signs like abnormal heartbeat or seizures.

Holly is the last toxic plant that I’m going to highlight today. There are different types of holly which having varying degrees of toxicity such as American, Japanese, or English holly. It’s mildly toxic when a pet ingests the berries or leaves. GI upset occurs causing drooling, lip smacking, vomiting, lethargy, and/or diarrhea.

If you think your pet has ingested these or any other poisonous plants, please contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian. The Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Poison Control Center are also good contacts.


Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.