'Tis the season for poinsettias!
Poinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants because of their colorful leaves that can range from a creamy white to a traditional bright red.
Recent online searches show many people are wondering if poinsettias can kill cats and dogs. Similar claims have been circulating on social media for years.
Are poinsettias deadly to pets?
- American Kennel Club
- Pet Poison Helpline
- Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT, senior director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
No, poinsettias are not deadly to pets, but ingesting the plant can cause mild illness.
WHAT WE FOUND
Poinsettia plants have had a bad rap for over a century. According to the ASPCA, the holiday plant has been called lethal to pets since around 1919. But poinsettias aren’t as dangerous to cats and dogs as many people believe.
The ASPCA, the American Kennel Club and the Pet Poison Helpline all say poinsettias are only mildly toxic to pets — not fatal — due to chemicals found in the plant’s milky white sap.
“While poinsettias are commonly ‘hyped’ as lethal plants, they rarely are, and the poisoning is greatly exaggerated,” the Pet Poison Helpline says on its website.
When cut, poinsettia stems excrete a milky white sap that contains minimal levels of chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and steroidal saponins, which are similar to those found in detergents.
If cats and dogs consume the sap, they may experience mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation, such as nausea, vomiting, drooling, or sometimes diarrhea. Skin irritation, including redness, swelling, and itchiness, can also occur after contact with the sap.
But the American Kennel Club and Pet Poison Helpline both say medical treatment is rarely necessary unless symptoms are persistent and severe.
“Poinsettias are a mildly toxic plant and should certainly be used with caution, but the dangers are hardly ever serious or fatal,” Jerry Klein, DVM, the American Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer, said in 2018.
To be safe, Klein recommends keeping plants like poinsettias out of your pet’s reach during the holiday season. He also says to never leave your pets unattended when decorations, plants or potentially hazardous foods are present.
While poinsettias aren’t deadly to pets, the ASPCA says there are a few other seasonal stems people should be wary of having around their pets.
“Holly and mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems when ingested, and various lilies that are often found in holiday bouquets can cause kidney failure in cats,” ASPCA says.
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