Toxic Holiday Plants

Plants make the holidays special. They brighten the atmosphere with special colors and scents. Not only people, but also many pets, find colorful plants attractive. However, some holiday plants are toxic to pets upon ingestion or through contact with sensitive tissues like the eyes or other mucus membranes.


Poinsettias are popular holiday plants that have a well-known reputation for being toxic. The truth is that they are not very toxic to pets. They do contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth and cause mild signs of salivation and nausea. The effects are self-limiting. Restricting your pet's access to food and water for one or two hours is all that's needed.

Arceuthobium camplyopodum, Mistletoe

Mistletoe, on the other hand, is a different story. This plant can be very  toxic to animals. It can cause vomiting, severe diarrhea, difficult breathing, shock and death within hours of ingestion. Some animals may even show erratic behavior and possible hallucinations. One should seek veterinary help immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested any part of the plant.  

Holly plant

Holly has the distinctive characteristic of spiny leaves and brightly colored fruits. Ingestion of the bright red berries causes salivation, vomiting, anorexia, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Pets may also shake their heads and smack their lips. Signs are usually self-limiting. Rinsing your pet's mouth will help remove mucosal irritants. Withhold food and water in the event vomiting persists. Hospitalization may be required in the more severe instances of Holly poisoning.

Christmas cactus

The Christmas Cactus, also known as the crab's claw cactus, is characterized by its flattened, spineless branches, which have prominent notches at the margins. Christmas cactus has low toxicity and can induce mild stomach irritation, vomiting, depression, diarrhea, and anorexia. Large quantities may cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Withholding food and water for one or two hours is usually sufficient.  

Some other less common holiday plants include:  

Jequirity bean

Jequirity Bean (Indian prayer bean): This black-tipped, scarlet bean is used in many dry arrangements. The seed is poisonous if eaten and can cause death.


Jerusalem cherry

Jerusalem Cherry: Every part of this plant contains toxic substances. Eating the fruit or foliage will adversely affect the heart. : Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, seizures, mental depression, respiratory depression, shock and death.



Yew: The leaves, seeds, bark, and twigs of this evergreen can be toxic, causing breathing difficulties, uncontrollable trembling, and vomiting.



Amaryllis: Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, tremors, drooling and abdominal pain.


American Bittersweet

American bittersweet: Ingestion results in weakness, vomiting and seizures.


European Bittersweet

European bittersweet: Ingestion results in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, weakness, confusion and low heart rate.



Chrysanthemum: Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, drooling and lack of appetite.


Christmas rose

Christmas rose: Ingestion results in abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and delirium.


Colchicum Waterlily - Autumn Crocus

Autumn crocus: Ingestion of the bulbs results in mouth irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, kidney failure, liver damage and bone marrow suppression.


Burning Bush, Dwarf

Burning bush: Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression and lack of appetite.


Every pet owner should be familiar with the plants they introduce into their homes. It is essential to take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure of poisonous plants to pets.  

Copyright © 2004 - 2013
Yuval Nir
Naperville University Commons Animal Clinic-
1827 Wehrli rd
Naperville , IL , 60565
(630) 544-3333
Veterinarians, Animal hospital