When you think about holiday greenery, your mind probably automatically centers in on a few different plants:

  • Pine trees
  • Evergreen wreaths
  • Mistletoe and Holly
  • Poinsettias

The last one on the list, the ever-popular holiday flower, is a staple in many homes in December. But, and this is important for pet parents, are poinsettias poisonous to dogs and cats? Is that quintessential Christmas decoration risky to keep on the counter or table near the front door?

We hear it a lot, especially this time of year, so let’s dig in.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?

Although they are predominantly known as a holiday plant, poinsettias go by a variety of different names: Euphorbia, lobster flower, flame leaf flower, Flower of the Holy Night, Flower of Christmas Eve, Crown of the Andes, and Easter flower.

But despite their hopeful and joyous names, are poinsettias poisonous to dogs and cats?

They are, but perhaps not as harmful as you originally thought. Honestly, their reputation as harmful is often quite overdone. Overall, poinsettias are a mildly toxic plant. Thankfully, for both dogs and cats, eating some poinsettia is hardly ever serious or fatal.

The milky white sap found in poinsettias is what represents the danger to our pets. It contains chemicals similar to those in detergents, and when pets eat a large quantity, you’re likely to see some results from that, including:

  • Drooling excessively
  • Licking lips
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin irritation (including redness, swelling, and itchiness)
  • Red, itchy, watering eyes
  • Pawing at eyes and face

While medical treatment is rarely necessary when a pet eats a leaf from a poinsettia plant or gets some sap on their skin, you should contact your veterinarian if clinical signs appear. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, just to be as safe as possible.

So, are you safe to keep them in your home if you have animals? Due to the low level of toxicity, you’re relatively safe to decorate with them as long as you’re careful. To be extra cautious, keep them in areas that your pet can’t get at – cats more than dogs for this tip, obviously, unless you have a super curious counter surfer. Try not to leave that same curious dog unattended when decorations, plants, and potentially hazardous foods are present.

[RELATED] There are several houseplants that are not only safe for pets, but also great at helping clear the air. Seriously, some of these are verified by NASA! Check this out next.

Other Toxic Holiday Plants

Now, of course poinsettias aren’t the only plants you’ll see around the holidays. Flowers and houseplants are popular hostess gifts or things to bring to friends and family to show a little holiday cheer. So, how do those ones rate on the toxicity scale? The following are additional plants that you need to either avoid completely or be extra cautious with over the holiday season:

  • Lillies – both dogs and cats, even a little can be toxic, doing damage to the kidneys
  • Amarylis – both dogs and cats, the toxins in the bulbs can cause vomiting with or without blood and potentially low blood pressure
  • Holly – the berry and leaf – both dogs and cats, irritating to the stomach and can cause vomiting and serious stomach upset
  • Mistletoe – both cats and dogs, can cause stomach upset and lethargy

If you suspect your pet has come in contact with or eaten any of the above plants, it’s best to head to the vet, just in case. Your vet can determine if it’s necessary to induce vomiting. Blood work and urinalysis may also be necessary to further assess and potential damage, as well as a biochemistry profile. Your pet may receive fluids and activated charcoal, and your vet will know whether additional monitoring is necessary.

So, in summary, are poinsettias poisonous to dogs and cats? While eating a few leaves can cause mild stomach upset, the rumors of its fatal effects are overrated, and with careful consideration in regards to placement, you can safely use them to decorate throughout the holidays.