The festive season is upon us, and it’s likely you’ve pulled out all the red, green and frosted foliage imaginable to adorn every doorway, banister and table top...
There’s one big problem, however: your dog. Very excited by all the festivities, they’re likely going to chomp on anything they can get their curious snout on. You’re going to want to dog-proof your house over Christmas, especially when it comes to potentially toxic plants.
So what kinds of festive plants are safe to have around your pooch? Can you have a real Christmas tree with a dog? Is fake snow toxic to dogs? We’ve laid out the answers below so you can keep toxic plants out of reach of your dog and therefore off your worried mind. There is a lot to stress over at Christmas time, but your cheeky pooch getting into the poinsettias needn’t be one of them.
The most important thing to remember is there isn’t really a ‘safe’ plant for a dog to decide is their Christmas meal. Some plants are milder in toxicity than others, so won’t have much effect if they’re munched on in small amounts, while others are more toxic to dogs if they have a chew.
With their bright red flowers and deep green leaves, poinsettias are the classic Christmas pot plant - and yes, they are mildly toxic to dogs if ingested but shouldn’t cause any serious harm. Still, keep your joyful poinsettias out of your pup’s reach, on a high display or somewhere that can’t be seen from dog level. If they do end up munching on the leaves or flowers, symptoms could include dribbling, vomiting or skin or mouth irritation from the sap.
Despite what you might expect, mistletoe isn’t highly poisonous to dogs, though it can cause mild sickness. If eaten, your pooch will either carry on symptomless, or they could show signs of a tummy bug such as sickness or diarrhoea. In rare cases, it has been found to cause confusion and tremors in dogs. To be safe, it’s best to hang mistletoe well out of reach of dogs so they aren’t tempted to try it.
The obvious danger of holly is its sharpness - but swallowing the leaves may cause your dog to only have mild sickness. If, however, your dog eats a bunch of holly berries, that could be more serious and cause heart issues, especially if your dog is small.
Overall, it’s not the most pleasant thing for a dog to eat, which should hopefully put them off - but if you hang holly in your house, make sure it’s high up so your dog can’t get to it.
Ivy is known for causing skin irritation in humans, and that applies to dogs too. Contact with a dog’s skin could cause a reaction, and it could cause mild sickness or diarrhoea if they eat the leaves. Ivy is often used in wreaths and Christmas garlands, so make sure none fall out onto the floor where a dog can munch on it.
Lilies are highly toxic to dogs, and cats for that matter - so if you have pets, you shouldn’t keep a lily anywhere near them. Eating even a small amount could result in kidney failure or even prove fatal. For this reason, it’s sensible to keep lilies away from your home, not just at Christmas but all year round.
Amaryllis aren’t as commonly used in homes at Christmas, but they are poisonous to dogs, so keep them well out of reach if you do decide to get some. The bulbs in particular can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea - or in severe cases, heart or respiratory issues.
A Christmas cactus (also called a schlumbergera) isn’t all that dangerous to dogs; just like some of the Christmas plants mentioned, eating the leaves might cause mild discomfort such as diarrhoea. They are very pretty but as with all the plants listed, it’s best to keep them out of sight/reach of your pooch so they aren’t tempted to have a taste.
Real Christmas trees are potentially of no concern to a dog. Thankfully, live trees that are popular at Christmas such as fir, pine and spruce are generally non-toxic to dogs if they gnaw on them. This is good if you’re used to the magic of a real Christmas tree each year, as it can be tough to even consider going without one!
You’re not all in the clear, though - as it’s the decorations, plant fertiliser and dropping needles that may cause problems for your pooch rather than the tree itself.
Pine needles are spiky and aren’t all that appetising, but generally that probably won’t stop a dog from trying a mouthful anyway. As they’re sharp and might have sap on them, any dropped needles could cause irritation to your dog’s mouth and stomach if they eat them, and may cause gastrointestinal issues. Try to keep them hoovered or swept up regularly, or use a gate for the tree to deter your dog from seeing it as a snack.
In small amounts (one lick, for instance), tree sap shouldn’t have much impact on your dog - however if they ingest a lot of it, it could make them unwell. It could be an idea to keep a close eye on your dog when they’re around a real Christmas tree to deter any chewing or licking.
Dogs should not ingest any form of plant fertiliser as it’s very toxic. If you water your tree with plant fertiliser and it trickles down into a base plate, your pooch could be tempted to lap at it. Be aware of this by keeping your Christmas tree dog-proofed.
Any edible tree decorations, or baubles that look like something edible should be kept well out of reach of your pooch. You don’t want them to eat chocolate, sweets or popcorn strings which could upset their stomach. Additionally, don’t decorate your tree with holly, ivy or other live garlands that your dog could pull down.
A dog shouldn’t feel all that tempted to eat a fake Christmas tree as it doesn’t taste good; then again, we should never put it past them. Having a fake tree solves the problem of dropping pine needles, however they could still have hazardous baubles hanging from them, or be coated in fake snow, which can potentially be toxic to dogs. Take the same precautions with a fake tree as you would a real one to ensure your dog stays safely away.
Here’s a full guide to dog-proofing your house at Christmas.
Confusingly, some fake snow is poisonous to dogs if they eat it, and some isn’t. To be safe, it’s best to buy a lovely fake Christmas tree that doesn’t come with a scenic dusting of snow - or at least don’t buy one that your dog will see or come into contact with regularly.
The most obvious tip for keeping your pet away from toxic Christmas plants is to not buy any - but of course, even fake plants might be a risk if your dog munches anything and everything, or is especially prone to sampling new and exciting items they find lying around the house.
If simply not having the plants in the house isn’t an option, you could try the following:
If you suspect your dog has only eaten a small amount of a festive plant, monitor the situation closely. If they are a bit sick or get diarrhoea, that’s to be expected. However if the vomiting or tummy issues are severe, or it goes on for more than a day, it’s sensible to take them to a vet as soon as you can.
If you notice a highly toxic plant has been eaten, such as holly berries or a lily, get your dog to a vet immediately, even if they aren’t yet showing any symptoms.
If your pooch is severely vomiting, seems lethargic, disorientated, is trembling or has severe diarrhoea, they may have been poisoned by ingesting toxic plants. Get your pooch to a vet immediately so they can receive treatment.
Dogs can get very excitable over Christmas, and want to eat everything, just as we do. So long as you keep a sharp eye on your dog over the festive period, keep hazards out of reach and give them lots of tasty treats as a distraction, your family and your dog can enjoy a wonderful, non-toxic Christmas!
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