It’s the season for festive cheer and decorating your house or condo with plenty of seasonal plants.   Unfortunately your pets may make decorating decisions of their own, knocking over a vase or trimming poinsettia leaves that seem a little out of place.  If you have an interior designer for a pet or an eating contest world champion, you may be asking yourself what holiday plants are harmful for your dog or cat.  Here’s a list of the common toxic plants for pets.  Keep in mind that the amount of plant that is ingested and the size of your pet are very important factors in determining how harmful a plant might be.


The toxicity of poinsettias for pets is often overstated. While I wouldn’t recommend letting your pets chew on the leaves, it probably won’t cause more than a mild upset stomach. Signs of toxicity are related to stomach and intestinal upset. Watch out for vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. The more of this plant that is eaten, the more harmful it can be. Vomiting once then looking perfectly normal should not raise concerns but being ill for more than a couple hours should prompt a visit to the vet.

Poinsettia Christmas

Mildly toxic to cats and dogs


Cats and Dogs kissing is not the only issue with this plant. If mistletoe is eaten it can be a very harmful plant to your cat or dog. Many different types of mistletoes exist, containing various toxins, with lectins being the most common toxin. These toxins can cause moderate to severe stomach upset, leading to vomiting and lethargy. Depending on the type of mistletoe a large range of toxic symptoms may be seen. Be safe and contact your vet if your pet has eaten this harmful holiday plant.

Mistletoe Dog Kissing

Mistletoe is moderately toxic to Dogs and Cats


This holiday staple is usually not on the menu because of its prickly exterior. A more adventurous dog or cat may treat themselves to this harmful plant. Typical signs of toxicity include salivation, vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Typically causes mild to moderate illness. On occasion the berries are replaced with plastic fakes, which if ingested may cause an intestinal obstruction in smaller animals.

Holly Toxic Dogs Cats

Prickly and not usually eaten


Extremely poisonous plant for cats! If you own a cat, do not own lilies. Like water and oil, these two do not mix. Lillies that are members of the Lilium or Hemerocallis family will cause acute kidney failure in cats. If treatment is not initiated within 18 hours, the prognosis for recovery is poor. Other types of lilies like Lily of the Valley do not cause acute kidney failure but do still contain dangerous toxins. All parts of a Lily are toxic. Call your veterinarian immediately if you’ve seen your cat chewing on this dangerous plant.

Lillies are dangerous for cats

Lillies are extremely toxic to cats


Set to bloom around the holidays, these plants can be a serious danger to cats and dogs. The inner bulb is the most toxic part of the plant while the leaves contain the same toxins in lower concentrations. Salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea are all you’ll likely notice if the leaves are chewed. If the bulb has been touched, contact a veterinarian. Weakness, a stumbling gait, tremors, and seizures can develop.

Amaryllis clear vase

Amaryllis bulb is very toxic to pets

Christmas Cactus

The most ironic of holiday plants can also be irritating to the stomach if eaten. Mild signs of vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea can be seen if this harmful plant is eaten by your cat or dog. Keep food and water away from your pet for a couple hours and all should be well. There have been reports of dermatitis, hives and cold-like symptoms from contact with this plant but this type of reaction is rare.

Christmas Cactus Pretty

Christmas cactus is mildly toxic for cats and dogs

Christmas tree needles

Irrespective of the type of Christmas tree you have picked, this plant is not overly harmful to your pet. All you may notice is a mild upset stomach leading to vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. The concern is if these needles get lodged in the intestinal tract, then they become a problem. If signs of illness are not resolving rapidly, contact your veterinarian to see if there’s a bigger issue at hand.

Christmas Tree Pic

Needles can cause intestinal obstructions

Aside from plants there are plenty of other dangerous holiday toxins that can throw a wrench in your peaceful holiday vacation.  If your pet is looking ill and you suspect they’ve eaten something poisonous, do not hesitate to call Poison Control.  They can be helpful in advising further treatment of any potential toxicity.  If you have any of these more toxic plants in your household, it is advised to replace them with safer alternatives.  Check back next week for more information on harmful holiday hazards for your dogs and cats.

Stay Safe!

Dr. Tim Julian