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EDITORS NOTE: Due to the university closure for the
winter holidays, this will be the last Pet Talk column for the
year. Pet Talks will resume normal distribution on January 3,
Many people are decorating their homes for the holidays, but pet
owners should be aware that some plants used for holiday decorating
can be dangerous to cats and dogs. Understanding which plants are
toxic, and which are not, can help bring home the festive spirit
and avoid danger for pets.
One of the most popular holiday plants often considered
poisonous are poinsettias. But in fact, they are "non" to "mildly"
toxic and do not deserve their bad reputation. Pets that ingest
poinsettias generally have no clinical signs or mild
gastrointestinal discomfort. A mild rash may develop if rubbed on
the skin, but they are considered safe to keep in the home.
Dr. Dorothy Black, clinical assistant professor at the Texas
A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences (CVM), explained, "Poinsettias are usually referred to as
highly toxic, but they really aren't. Feel free to display them at
Christmas trees are also generally safe for pets. However, pine
needles can cause damage to eyes if pets should run into the tree,
such as a corneal laceration. Should pets ingest the sap produced
by the tree, mild gastrointestinal discomfort may occur, but
natural trees are generally non-toxic for cats and dogs.
Mistletoe, on the other hand, can be quite poisonous to pets. If
ingested, pets may experience gastrointestinal upset, or show
clinical signs of poisoning such as a change in mental function,
difficulty breathing, or a low heart rate.
"If you see these symptoms in your pet and suspect or know they
ingested mistletoe, you should seek veterinary assistance as soon
as possible," Black said. "Mistletoe shouldn't be used where pets
could possibly reach it."
Another holiday decorative plant, holly, can be dangerous for
pets and is considered poisonous. Clinical symptoms may be
displayed as vomiting, diarrhea, decreased energy, and general
upset stomach. Owners should seek veterinary assistance if they
suspect their pets of ingesting holly.
Amaryllis and Daffodils are also considered poisonous for pets.
If ingested, pets may vomit, appear depressed, or show signs of a
painful abdomen and a loss of appetite.
"Some pets who consume amaryllis or daffodils will show symptoms
of tremors," Black said. "This can be a sign of severe
Lilies are particularly toxic to cats. The ingestion of any part
of any type of lily can lead to kidney failure. The clinical signs
can include vomiting, depression, or loss of appetite. If you
suspect your cat of ingesting lilies, you should contact your
veterinarian immediately. There is no antidote, and intense
supportive care is needed for cats to recover.
"The more toxic the plant, the more careful you should be with
displaying them in your home. While Poinsettias and Christmas trees
are generally safe for pets, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis,
daffodils, and lilies should be considered quite toxic," Black
said. "Pets should not be allowed to come in contact with poisonous
holiday plants, and if they are displayed in the home they should
be kept out of reach, and pet's behavior should be monitored to
make sure they do not show symptoms of poisoning."
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