It’s the season of decorations: garlands, ornaments, tinsel, and, of course, a bevy of colorful holiday plants. And though it’s important to keep your home looking festive for your celebrations, don’t forget about your furry friends — some of your decor could be toxic to dogs and cats.

Check out the 5 most dangerous holiday plants so you can spend your time celebrating … and not at the vet.

1. Poinsettias

With its big red petals, this iconic flower finds its way into numerous homes during the holidays. And though it’s got a reputation for being highly dangerous to pets, there’s some good news: while definitely unpleasant, the effects of poinsettia are usually not dire.

For cats, the milky sap can cause indigestion, vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, and some skin irritation if direct contact is made. Fortunately, it’s not deadly. Nevertheless, keeping these flowers out of your home is a smart idea because no one wants a sick pup or kitty during the holidays.

Watch out for: drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation.

2. Lilies

This holiday favorite is also popular throughout the year, making it trickier to manage. On top of that, there are a multitude of varieties, some of which are particularly toxic.

Peruvian, Calla, and Peace lilies are more benign, but they can still irritate tissue in the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus, which can lead to drooling or vomiting.

Toxic lilies, on the other hand, can cause acute kidney failure in cats. These varieties include Day, Asiatic hybrid, Tiger, Easter, Japanese Show, Rubrum, Red, Western, Stargazer, and wood lilies.

If you have pets, it’s best to avoid Lilies of the Valley. These can cause heart arrhythmias in dogs and cats, with the potential to be fatal.

Take your dog or cat to the vet immediately if they ingest lilies or show these symptoms.

Watch out for: hiding, vomiting, diarrhea, halitosis, dehydration, inappropriate urination or thirst, seizures.

3. Holly

Holly may be the trademark of wreaths and mantelpieces, but its spiny leaves and red berries could spell gastrointestinal trouble for your dogs and cats. The leaf, in particular, can cause injury, leading to drooling or head shaking, while the toxins can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Keep these plants away from your pets and call a vet or poison helpline if you suspect that any holly has been ingested.

Watch out for: drooling, lip smacking, head-shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite.

4. Mistletoe

For many of us, mistletoe means a kiss from someone special. But if your pet accidentally mistakes it for a snack, it could be hazardous.

There are 2 varieties of mistletoe: American and European. American mistletoe, while more common and less harmful, poses risks for both cats and dogs. In small amounts, it can cause gastrointestinal irritation, while larger amounts can lead to abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, and a loss of coordination. It’s also been known to cause seizures and could even be fatal in some cases. Contact your vet or pet poison control line right away if ingested.

Watch out for:
vomiting, diarrhea, signs of abdominal pain or discomfort, impaired walking and coordination, collapsing, seizures.

5. Christmas tree

Dogs and cats might be tempted to gnaw on parts of the Christmas tree, which could cause a few problems. Although the toxic effects of needles and sap are typically mild, it’s still important to take some precautions. Needles can puncture the intestines or cause intestinal blockage, while toxins from needles and sap can cause irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. The level of severity depends on how much is consumed.

Particularly hazardous, however, is the basin water, which can contain pesticides, preservatives, and fertilizers. This could be deadly to cats, dogs, and even children if ingested in high amounts, so a covered basin is highly recommended. You could also go with an artificial tree (although the consumption of synthetic material could cause intestinal blockage and some toxicity).

Watch out for: drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive licking or salivating, changes in appetite or behavior.

Festive alternatives

So does that mean your home can’t be decked out with holiday cheer? Not at all! In fact, there are several ways to work around these obstacles. Poinsettias, for example, look great on patios and porches. And they’ll survive as long as they aren’t exposed to extreme cold. Just give them a spritz of pet repellant to keep the neighbor’s outdoor cats at bay.

You can also hang synthetic poinsettias, which let you keep the festive look without all the risk. And did you know that roses and Christmas cactus are nontoxic? Boasting bright red hues, they’re brimming with holiday cheer.

As for your Christmas tree, the most foolproof plan is to keep pets away from the tree when you’re not home. There are a variety of pet-safe sprays, some of which come with a motion-sensor release that’ll deter your cat or dog from tampering with the tree. You can also install a tree barricade to keep cats from climbing the trunk and ingesting sap, needles, tinsel, or electrical wires.

And to ensure your pets are totally protected, get a quote for pet insurance today.

Happy holidays!

DIY hacks


about Chris

Chris has written everything from fiction manuscripts to pretend newsletters about pirates. He's even edited numerous volumes of work written entirely by kids. As a freelance writer at Esurance, he strives to bring out the whimsy and heart of insurance. Outside of Esurance, Chris is an audiophile, visual artist, and explorer of late-night taquerias.