The holidays are a time of year where we bring all types of new plants into our homes. One plant that pet owners are concerned most about is the poinsettia. Yes, poinsettias are mildly toxic to dogs but the degree of toxicity has been greatly over exaggerated by rumors and urban legends. Poinsettias produce a sticky white sap that contains chemicals that can cause irritation when eaten or exposed to the skin and eyes. If your cat or dog’s skin has come into contact with the sap it may be red, swollen and itchy; these are signs of inflammation. The same inflammatory signs can be seen in incidences where the sap has gotten into your pet’s eyes. In most cases, the pet will have bitten or tried to eat the plant. The toxin from the sap may have contacted the skin inside the mouth leading to irritation, drooling and licking of lips. If ingested, the sap may contact the lining of the pet’s gastrointestinal tract and cause internal discomfort resulting in mild vomiting and possibly diarrhea.
The poinsettia plant will cause irritation and discomfort to your pet, but pet deaths have not been associated with the consumption of the plant. The threat to your pets from a poinsettia is minimal, but please be aware that there are other holiday plants (holly, lilies and mistletoe) that can be a serious danger to your dogs and cats. While there is not an antidote to the poinsettia toxin, the clinical signs that your pet displays are usually mild, self-limiting and most animals do not require medical treatment. If your pet has consumed a poinsettia or other substance and is displaying severe signs of vomiting, diarrhea and inflammation that are not getting better, please seek medical attention from your veterinarian.