Let's have a closer look at some of the common plants we like to decorate our homes with at Christmas. Should we really 'meet under the mistletoe' or is that a bad idea for pet-friendly homes? Here are some guidelines to help assist you with your holiday plant purchases:
*Christmas cactus . This plant is considered to be non-toxic. Just like any other plant material, ingestion may cause mild GI upset or vomiting.
*Mistletoe This plant contains lectins, but ingestion of a few leaves or berries will generally only cause a mild gastritis. If purchased in a store, the berries frequently have been removed and replaced with plastic "berries" which can still pose a potential threat if ingested by becoming a foreign body/causing obstruction in the bowel. Large ingestions of mistletoe warrant a visit to one of our veterinarians as your pet may require decontamination and monitoring of their heart. Most pets however will just nibble this plant and then vomit.
*Holly is not commonly ingested since it is a 'prickly' plant. However, when it is brought inside as a decoration, cats in particular find it quite tasty! All parts of the holly plant are considered to be toxic. Holly has methylxanthines, saponins, and ilicin as some of its toxic components. Most ingestions of the Holly plant typically cause GI irritation and depression. It is prudent to have your pet assessed by one of our veterinarians if they have eaten parts of a Holly plant.
*Amaryllis are common ornamental bulb plants, forced to bloom at Christmas time. These plants contain a variety of alkaloids and galanthamine, which is a cholinesterase-inhibitor. All parts of the plant are toxic, however the bulbs pose the biggest threat. With cats, they usually only eat the foliage and flower which can cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Ingesting the bulb however can cause serious drops in blood pressure, weakness, wobbliness, tremors and seizures.
If you are concerned your pet has potentially eaten something they shouldn't have, especially a holiday plant, it is always best to err on the side of caution and have them examined by one of our veterinarians.