7 Holiday Plants That Are Toxic to Pets

Mary Beth  Skylis
It’s a good thing this mistletoe is fake.
It’s a good thing this mistletoe is fake. / Brooke Anderson Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images
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‘Tis the season to shop for festive plants like poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe, whether to gift or to display around the house. While those traditional plants make great presents and can elevate anyone’s Christmas decor, many of them are actually dangerous for our furry friends—especially when consumed. Some plants can even be lethal, which is why it’s important to stay informed about the flora you may be tempted to bring into your home. Here are seven popular holiday plants that are actually toxic to pets.

1. Holly

Common Holly, c1891, (1891)
Holly berries are good for wild birds, not domestic dogs or cats. / Print Collector/GettyImages

Holly is a common Christmas plant, with roots in Druid traditions. Today, many Christians use the plant as a reminder of the Crucifixion. But be careful if you do decide to deck the halls with it: Both the plant and its berries contain toxins that can be harmful to pets (and children). Common symptoms of holly poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain. Consuming large quantities of holly leaves or berries could also lead to seizures, and in some cases, even death. 

2. Mistletoe

Viscum Album L. (Mistletoe)
Keep your mistletoe out of your pets' reach. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Mistletoe is perhaps the most romantic plant of the season. And though it’s tradition for couples to steal a kiss beneath its leaves, any furry family members should stay away. This little plant contains both lectins and phoratoxins, which are major toxins that can cause an animals’ heart to drastically slow, or its blood pressure to drop. Fortunately, your pet would have to eat a lot of mistletoe to be severely impacted by the toxins. But if they do happen to snack on the plant, be sure to look out for symptoms like gastrointestinal upset, weakness, restricted breathing, and low blood pressure. 

3. Poinsettias

Christmas Poinsettias
Poinsettia sap can be irritating to animalsl. / GraphicaArtis/GettyImages

Poinsettias are beautiful and iconic Christmas plants commonly given as gifts during the holiday season. But you should be careful where you keep them: While poinsettias aren’t as harmful as they’re commonly made out to be, some pets may have an allergic reaction to the plant’s sap, which could manifest as vomiting, drooling, and skin irritation. But in most cases, your cat or dog would have to ingest a large amount of poinsettias to have a more severe reaction. 

4. Lilies

Madonna Lily And Bulb
Cat owners: beware of lilies. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Lilies are popular choices in holiday floral arrangements. If you have pets, though, it’s best to keep them out of the house—especially if you have any feline family members. Even consuming small amounts of the plant can result in convulsions, heart arrhythmias, or even organ failure. Though not all lilies are poisonous to dogs, all lilies that are part of the “true lily” and “daylily” family are extremely dangerous to cats. 

5. Your Christmas Tree

Five Christmas Tree Ornaments
All the more reason to keep pets away from your Christmas tree. / GraphicaArtis/GettyImages

Sure, dogs and cats can be a big threat to that Christmas tree you hauled into the house. The trees aren’t entirely defenseless, though. Oils from pine needles can irritate your pet’s mouth and stomach. In particularly grisly circumstances, gnawing on a Christmas tree could cause diarrhea, an obstruction, or even intestinal punctures. It’s best to keep animals away from Christmas tree water, too, as bacteria can build up there over time. 

6. Ivy

Christmas Skaters surrounded by ivy
Pets and ivory do not mix. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

In pre-Christian times, people used ivy along with holly and mistletoe to celebrate the Winter Solstice; today, people still often incorporate it into their holiday decor. While ivy is stunning, ingesting it can have unfortunate consequences for your furbabies. Consuming the plant can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, increased drooling, and more. In extreme cases, some pets may even wind up with blood in their stools.

7. Laurel

Pistachio Nut Bay Tree (Laurus Nobilis) And Almond 1613
Do not let your dog eat laurel. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Laurel has long been used in wreaths. If you have animals, however, you should look for wreaths made of something else. Some species of laurel contain highly dangerous neurotoxins that can wreak havoc on your pets’ bodies. Grayanotoxin, which is commonly found in Laurel, can impact skeletal and nerve function when ingested. It can also hinder the heart’s ability to function—a potentially lethal consequence. 

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