The Christmas season brings us many good times and surely decorating the home is one of the most rewarding. However, when we live with animals, decorations can cause some problems. Since dogs love to play, it can be easy for them to mistake tree decorations for their own toys. However, ruining the festive home decor isn’t the only problem caused by the holidays. The poinsettia or poinsettia is a very popular seasonal plant at Christmas, but it is said that it can be harmful to dogs and cats.
In this article we will explain if this statement is true and what happens when a dog or cat ingests a poinsettia leaf.
What is the poinsettia
The poinsettia, or poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) according to its scientific name, is a plant associated with Christmas, in particular due to its red leaves that contrast with its green stem. Although popular as a potted plant around the holidays, it is actually a small tree and can grow to a height of over 10 feet.
Poinsettia plants are native to Central America and it is here that they were first associated with the celebration of Christmas within Christian religious communities. Millions of these plants are grown each year, but they aren’t just for Christmas. Although many people only care for them during those dates, they are perennials and can be kept throughout the year.
However, poinsettia leaves only appear for a shorter period in the winter. That is why they are also associated with Christmas dates.
Are poinsettias poisonous to cats and dogs?
The history of the poinsettia has led to a lot of misinformation about this plant. An urban legend that changes according to the country where it is told, reported that a child died from ingesting a leaf of the poinsettia. From stories of this type, the belief that this plant could be lethal to our pets spread.
The plant itself is toxic to cats and dogs, but they are not lethal. If our pet only ingested a bite of the plant, the adverse reaction is more than unlikely.
There are two main ways that poinsettia leaves can cause harm to our dog or cat. Ingesting poinsettia leaves can leak the sap into your mouth when you chew. This can irritate the mouth and gums, but also the stomach and esophagus, which can lead to vomiting.
The animal can see its skin affected, especially if it comes into contact with its eyes. Since cats and dogs are curious, you may smell the leaves and stain your skin with sap. Symptoms are usually mild and a serious reaction is unlikely, but we must be careful anyway.
What are the symptoms of poinsettia toxicity in dogs?
Although it is not lethal for dogs and cats, it is possible that they have an adverse reaction. This will depend on the amount ingested or the amount of sap that has come into contact with the animal’s skin. Also, if the sap comes into contact with sensitive areas of the body, the symptoms may be more acute. They include:
- Irritation of the skin.
- Blisters (when the amount ingested is high).
What to do if your cat or dog ate poinsettia
If you suspect or know for sure that your pet ate poinsettia leaves, we must be careful. The animal can suffer a slight poisoning, but it can be complicated if it suffers an allergic reaction. Although both situations are concerning, they affect the dog in different ways. In a severe allergic reaction, your pet can go into anaphylactic shock.
The first thing to do is keep calm. If you panic, you will hamper your ability to help him and you can also cause the animal to panic. Try to find out if the plant is actually causing the problem. If you have a severe reaction, it is unlikely. When fallen leaves or plant parts have bite marks, it is more likely.
If you are sure that your pet has eaten poinsettia leaves, you should do the following:
- Allow the animal to vomit when possible. Since ingestion of the plant is causing the symptoms, we should let them vomit the material when possible. Making them vomit is only recommended if it is an emergency, as doing so can cause more damage. A veterinarian can induce vomiting clinically.
- If your pet’s skin or eyes have been exposed to poinsettia sap, you should wash the area with plenty of fresh water. Consult your vet to see if he needs any additional medications.
- To combat dehydration, provide your pet with water to drink and never give her medication on your own. Only the veterinary professional can determine which medications are the most appropriate.
Before the treatment, the veterinarian should evaluate the function of the kidneys of your dog or cat to rule out possible complications. You will need to inform the vet of her medical history, as well as the circumstances that led to the poisoning. The faster you act, the better the prognosis.
Christmas plants and pets: safer alternatives
There are other plants that can replace the famous Easter plant, being just as Christmas. For example:
These tropical plants thrive indoors and are easy to care for. Green leaves and brightly colored flowers are a great alternative to holly or poinsettia. Fortunately, blush bromeliads (Neoregalia spp.) Are not poisonous to cats or dogs.
Red and white roses are a festive and safe alternative to the poinsettia that your pets will not be tempted to ingest, and if they did, they would not suffer any poisoning.
During the winter holidays, many stores sell rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) topiaries that look like miniature Christmas trees, some with little decorations. If you are concerned about your pet playing with a pine or fir (which can also be toxic), rosemary trees are a wonderful and elegant alternative.