Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Agri Leader

Holiday plants can threaten health of pets

Central Florida's Agri-Leader
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 09:34 PM

The holiday season is the time when most of us decorate with festive, colorful plants and brightly lit trees. While many plants are harmless, some are poisonous if ingested by curious dogs or cats. Keeping your pets safe during this holiday season requires careful diligence on your part, both indoors and out.

According to Kathleen Animal Hospital in Lakeland, dogs are twice as likely to become victims of plant poisoning than cats or other domestic animals. The risk is even greater if you have a puppy, as they typically nibble out of curiosity.

One of the most dangerous holiday plants for pets is one of the most common Christmas ornamentals, the poinsettia. This beautiful red and green plant is well-known for its toxic properties. Although the poinsettia contains toxins that are considered mild, dogs will suffer uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite if they sample any part of the plant.

In addition to poinsettias, you should also keep holly berries out of your pet's reach. Holly is a popular shrub that is often used in outdoor landscaping designs in central Florida. There are parts of this plant, however, that are highly toxic to dogs and cats.

The bright red berries, leaves, bark and seeds are all poisonous if consumed by young children or animals. The berries are especially dangerous, as they contain an alkaloid similar to those found in chocolate, which also is toxic for dogs.

Mistletoe is another plant featured in many holiday festivities. If mistletoe is going to be in your home, be sure to hang it high or place it well out of your pet's reach. Mistletoe can cause nausea, vomiting and heart problems in dogs and cats. Mistletoe also can cause poisoning symptoms in humans, so beware if you have small children at home.

Human consumption of mistletoe can lead to blurry vision, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure and even death. Lilies are another plant commonly enjoyed during the holiday season. Watch out if you have children or pets at home, as these plants are highly toxic if eaten.

Your Christmas tree also poses a danger to your pets. Many pets are injured each year from falling trees that were improperly secured. So be sure to anchor your tree down to avoid this scenario.

Live Christmas trees are typically pines, balsam firs or spruce that not only produce a festive spirit but plant poisoning symptoms in dogs and cats. Conifers contain natural oils that are irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.

In addition, most Christmas trees are treated with fertilizers and pesticides that linger long after the tree has been cut and made it into your living room. Chemical compounds such as these are well-known for causing symptoms of toxicity in animals.

If curious pets consume the pine needles from Christmas trees, the results can be deadly. In rare instances, pine needles have punctured the intestinal tracts in dogs after consumption. While this is a fairly uncommon occurrence, no pet owner wants their beloved animal to suffer needlessly. The stagnant water in your Christmas tree stand also can contain bacteria, which may make pets sick, as well.

The holiday season just isn't the same without festive plants indoors and out. Keeping these tips in mind may help keep your pet from becoming sick or worse.

Some other things to watch out for this holiday season are lighted candles that pets can knock over, adult cocktails that can poison your pet and foods containing xylitol or chocolate. Loose ribbons and yarn can become lodged in your pet's intestine, resulting in the need for surgical intervention.

Tinsel hanging from Christmas tree branches is shiny and attractive to cats. If your kitty swallows tinsel, it may lead to vomiting, an intestinal obstruction or even death. So be sure to take the time to make your home safe for all your family members, including your pets.

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