While a variety of plants play an important part in making for festive holiday decorations this time of year, it is important to remember that while they look pretty, they can be pretty toxic to pets, even causing death to those who may decide to nibble on them. These include poinsettias and mistletoe. In fact, the two most common forms of mistletoe found at Christmas time, (Viscum album and Phoradendron flavescen) contain the toxins viscotoxin and phoratoxin, both of which are hemolytic peptide-based toxins that can depolarize cell membranes in skeletal and cardiac muscles in humans as well as cats and dogs.
Symptoms of mistletoe poisoning include blurred vision, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and death in humans, while pets who ingest the plants generally exhibit erratic behavior, have difficulty breathing, diarrhea and vomit.
Although tulips, hyacinths, rhododendrons and azaleas are not generally considered Christmas plants, some varieties still bloom in winter, while some other shrubs maintain their green leaves year round depending on where you live. Whether you receive hothouse plants as a gift this season, or are storing tulip and hyacinth bulbs for spring planting, remember to make sure to keep them out of reach for both pets and small children.
Ingesting the bulbs contain allergenic lactones and other alkaloids can cause irritation of the mouth and throat, as well as stomach problems, convulsions, and increased heart rate. Symptoms often include severe drooling, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
Again, while the bulbs are the most toxic part of these plants, all parts of rhododendrons and azaleas are considered poisonous. In fact, the grayanotoxins found in rhododendrons can “disrupt sodium channels” in the body, thus affecting skeletal and cardiac muscle. In addition to being toxic to humans and dogs (who can become violently ill from simply breathing in smoke fumes from burning wood. Rhododendron are also extremely toxic to horses and can cause their death within hours after being eaten. Signs of rhododendren poisoning include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, abnormal heart rate, heart arrhythmias, weakness, hypotension, depression, tremors, blindness, seizures, and coma.
Take a look around your home to make sure the plants and substances listed above are out of the reach of children and pets. Keep in mind the toxicity of these items when discarding them. Secure your trash to keep children and pets from gaining access to these potential hazards, and hopefully you will have a happy and healthy holiday season.