With Christmas fast approaching, homes up and down the country will be blooming with festive flora. However, while merry mistletoe, a twinkling pine and ruby red poinsettia will ensure that festive feeling, they’re among several seasonal plants and trees that can be poisonous to cats and dogs.

According to findings from MORE TH>N, over three quarters (78%) of British homes contain plants that are toxic to cats and dogs. With such a large number containing toxic plants it’s perhaps no surprise that almost 10% of cats and dogs have fallen ill after ingesting the dangerous plant life. Of those, 43% subsequently needed urgent veterinary care, while 15% sadly passed away.

Popular Christmas plants that can be dangerous to pets includes:

  • Poinsettia: mildly toxic to cats and dogs. Can cause vomiting or poorly tummy
  • Amaryllis: mild to moderate toxicity. Can cause vomiting, poorly tummy, hypotension
  • Hyacinth: mildly toxic to cats and dogs. Can cause vomiting or poorly tummy
  • Mistletoe: mild to moderate toxicity. In small doses can result in mild signs of gastrointestinal irritation (e.g., drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain). When ingested in large amounts, abnormal heart rate, collapse, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia (walking drunk), seizures and death have also been reported.
  • Holly: Mild to moderate toxicity. Can cause drooling, vomiting and gastrointestinal upset
  • Christmas Tree: mildly toxic. The fir tree oils can be irritating to the mouth and stomach, causing excessive drooling or vomiting.

Despite the clear and present dangers, there is a widespread ignorance of the perils plant life can pose to animals, with one in every three pet owners (31%) admitting they have no idea if the plants and flowers they own are toxic to animals. The same number were unaware that plants could even be poisonous to pets, while 71% of all pet owners cannot identify any of the symptoms of poisoning in their cat or dog.

The findings form part of MORE TH>N’s ongoing Pet Safe campaign, designed to raise awareness of the issue of cats and dogs being poisoned by plants and flowers.

As part of the campaign MORE TH>N is directly calling on plant producers, manufacturers of plant products and retailers to provide clearer labelling to help pet owners easily identify if items are safe or harmful to cats and dogs – something that 86% of cat and dog owners would like to see. To date, over 30 Members of Parliament have supported MORE TH>N’s aims for clearer labelling.

John Ellenger, Head of Pet Insurance at MORE TH>N, commented: “Through this campaign we’ve been arming pet owners with the practical advice and information they need to identify safe and dangerous plants, to recognise the symptoms of poisoning – and what to do in that eventuality – and above all to reduce the likelihood of their beloved pets becoming ill in the first place.

“Christmas is a time of year where people’s houses will be full of seasonal plants that could be poisonous to animals – including the Christmas tree itself. However, it’s not just the flora that poses a risk. Mince pies, raisin-laden Christmas puddings and chocolate are all potentially life-threatening to dogs so it’s incredibly important that as households gear up for the festive season, they remember to take measures to keep their beloved pets safe.”