5 Christmas plants that are toxic to dogs (and some safe alternatives)
Last Updated: 21/12/2023
Christmas is a time for joy and celebration, but it's also important to keep our pets safe. Many traditional Christmas plants can be harmful to dogs, so we’ve put together this list of the five most common festive plants that are toxic to dogs, why they're dangerous, symptoms to watch out for, and safer alternatives for your pets.
Poinsettias, often a popular choice for Christmas decorations, can be a hidden danger for dogs. The milky white sap in the plant's leaves and stems contains toxic substances which can be released and absorbed by the tissues in the mouth and stomach when your dog chews or bites into the plant.
If consumed in large quantities, this can lead to irritation in their mouth and stomach, possibly leading to serious health issues.
Symptoms of poinsettia poisoning
While poinsettia poisoning is generally more irritating than life-threatening, it can still cause significant discomfort to your dog.
If your dog’s chewed on a poinsettia, gently wipe their mouths with a wet cloth to remove any traces of the plant or sap. Wipe both outside and inside as much as possible if you can do this safely. Watch for signs of distress or prolonged discomfort and call your vet if symptoms persist or worsen.
Using artificial poinsettias is a great way to enjoy the beauty without the risk. These days, you can find very realistic-looking fake poinsettias that add the same festive touch to your home without posing a risk to your dog. They are also a more durable and long-lasting decoration, making them a cost-effective and pet-safe choice.
The main concern with Holly is its berries, which contain substances like saponins, methylxanthines, and cyanogens. These toxins can cause a range of stomach issues if your dog eats them.
The leaves of the holly plant are also sharp and spiky, leading to potential injuries in the mouth or digestive tract if swallowed.
Symptoms of holly poisoning
If you think your dog has ingested holly, act fast. Remove any of the plant from their mouth and give them water. Watch them closely if the symptoms worsen, and contact your vet if the vomiting or diarrhoea is severe or persistent (over 24 hours).
Silk holly decorations are a fantastic substitute for real holly. Silk holly can be used in wreaths, garlands, or as standalone decorations, and they have the added benefit of being reusable and low maintenance.
Mistletoe poses a significant health risk to your dog. This plant contains several toxic compounds, including viscotoxins and phoratoxins. These substances are particularly harmful to dogs and can affect both their gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. The severity of the poisoning depends on the amount ingested and the type of mistletoe (American or European varieties), with the British type being more toxic.
Symptoms of mistletoe poisoning
Mistletoe poisoning can lead to seizures or even coma.
If you think your dog has eaten mistletoe, seek veterinary advice urgently. Take some of the plant with you when you see the vet. Treatment usually involves inducing vomiting and stabilising your dog using intravenous fluids and medications to control their symptoms.
To safely enjoy the mistletoe tradition, opt for plastic or fabric mistletoe. These artificial versions can be as charming and festive as the real plant without any risks to your dog.
The Christmas cactus, often admired for its vibrant flowers during the holiday season, is generally considered less toxic than other festive plants. However, it can still pose a risk to dogs. If a dog chews or ingests parts of this plant, it can lead to mild stomach upset. The Christmas cactus's fibrous plant material and small amounts of saponins can irritate a dog's stomach and intestines.
Symptoms of Christmas cactus poisoning
If you notice that your dog has eaten a Christmas cactus, monitoring them at home is usually enough to ensure their safety, providing they have access to plenty of water.
However, if the vomiting or diarrhoea is persistent (over 24 hours) or your dog seems uncomfortable or unwell, they may need to visit the vet.
A silk Christmas cactus is an excellent alternative for pet owners. They're completely safe for dogs, meaning you can decorate your home without concern for your pet's health. Additionally, silk plants require no maintenance, a bonus for busy pet owners during the hectic holiday season.
Certain types of ivy, including the popular English ivy, contain compounds known as triterpenoid saponins. When ingested, these compounds can cause various unpleasant and harmful symptoms. The level of toxicity can vary based on the type of ivy and the amount consumed, but it's advisable to keep all ivy plants out of reach of pets.
Symptoms of poisoning
If you suspect that your dog has ingested ivy, it's important to remove any remaining plant material from their mouth and provide them with water to drink. Keep a close eye on their condition. In some cases, veterinary intervention may be necessary.
Artificial garlands can be used in the same decorative ways as real ivy, and they look remarkably real. Plus, they're durable and reusable, making them a practical choice for festive decorating year after year.
If you don’t want to buy artificial plants, there are also some pet-safe houseplants. These include the Chinese Money Plant, Spider Plant, Areca Palm, Boston Fern, Haworthia and Calathea.
It's better to be safe than sorry. If your pet has eaten a dangerous plant, contact your vet immediately. Identify the plant your pet has eaten so you can give your vet all the information they need to diagnose quickly. This will lead to speedier care, meaning your dog will have a far better chance of recovery.
Need more advice?
If you want to treat your pets this Christmas, why not speak to your vet? They’ll be happy to help and can recommend treats and toys to ensure your pets have a merry Christmas. Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page.