Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Why you’ll want to keep your pet away from poinsettias this holiday season

For many families, Christmas decorating wouldn’t be complete without pots of poinsettias placed throughout the house. But are poinsettias toxic to pets? Whether flanking the fireplace, serving as table centerpieces, or gracing the foot of the holiday tree, these striking plants add welcome color to the festivities. However, as with any holiday decorations, positioning poinsettias in the home takes careful consideration by pet parents.

Why you need to keep your pet away from poinsettia

We’re sure you’ve heard that poinsettias can be lethal if ingested by pets. But is that true? Experts at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) say, “Poinsettias may be the most misrepresented plant when it comes to toxicity.” In fact, according to the ASPCA, many animal studies have shown that the plant is not lethal to pets. The Pet Poison Helpline says, “While commonly ‘hyped’ as poisonous plants, poinsettias rarely are.”

That said, poinsettias are mildly toxic to pets  and should be kept out of their reach. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the milky white sap found in poinsettias contains chemicals similar to those in detergents that can cause gastrointestinal problems. The sap can also cause skin irritation. Signs to watch for if you suspect that your dog or cat has been munching on poinsettia leaves include:

  • drooling
  • lip licking
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • skin irritation including redness, swelling, and itchiness
  • eye irritation
French bulldog looking up at poinsettia.

Veterinary experts at PetMD say it would take a large amount of the poinsettia material to cause serious health issues. Luckily, most pets are discouraged from eating large amounts because the sap has an unpleasant taste and an irritating effect on the tissues of the mouth. The size of your pet and the amount ingested will determine the severity of the symptoms. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, medical treatment is rarely necessary unless symptoms are severe. When in doubt, it’s always best to reach out to your veterinarian for advice.

How to safely decorate with poinsettias

Due to poinsettias’ low level of toxicity, American Kennel Club experts say it’s safe to include them, while exercising caution, as part of your holiday décor. Since most cats can easily jump onto high places, it’s challenging to keep them away from toxic plants. Do your best to keep such plants safely out of your pet’s reach and avoid leaving a cat or dog unattended around holiday plants and other decorations. Here are some tips when decorating with poinsettias:

  • Kitchens are often overlooked when it comes to holiday decorations, but a large window sill over the kitchen sink is a great place to put a few poinsettia plants. They make a bigger splash when bunched together, and you can enjoy their cheery color while working in the kitchen knowing that your dog can’t get to them. This won’t work for cats, though, as they can easily jump onto the sink to get to the plants.
  • Placing poinsettias on top of a mantelpiece can add vibrant color to a room while keeping the plants safely out of reach of dogs and many cats. Clearing furniture from either side of the fireplace can help deter agile cats from using a table, couch, or chair as a launching pad to reach the mantelpiece.
  • You don’t have to worry about pets getting to the plant if it’s safely displayed inside a glass vase. Design experts at Better Home & Gardens suggest cutting poinsettia blooms and placing them in water inside hanging macramé vases. Just remember to change the water frequently in order to keep the cut poinsettias fresh.
  • Consider using artificial poinsettias. There are some gorgeous lifelike silk displays that you can safely place around your home without having to worry about the hazards of live plants. Adding faux poinsettia leaves to Christmas wreaths or garlands can add a festive splash of color to your home.
Cat eating poinsettia leaves.

Avoid toxic plants altogether

The poinsettia is not the only popular holiday plant you need to consider for its toxicity. You also need to keep pets away from holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, and Christmas lilies. The best way to protect your pets is to avoid including toxic plants in your holiday decor. This is especially true if you live with a pet who has a penchant for chewing on flowers or leaves. In that case, it’s best to opt for artificial plants so the whole family can enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
Did you find worms in your dog’s poop? Here’s how to identify and treat them
Parasitic worms can cause real problems in pets — here's how to treat them and take care of your furry friend
Dog runs through the grass outside

Keeping our dogs regular is a fundamental part of pet ownership and is usually pretty easy. Their food includes all the nutrients they need plus maybe a built-in probiotic to help maintain digestion. Sometimes, though, you'll suddenly find your pup has diarrhea, and you'll have to figure out exactly what's going on inside. While there are a number of different possible causes, it could be worms, which can turn serious and even into a life-threatening situation if left untreated.
What are parasitic worms?
When we're talking about worms here we don't mean the kind in your yard and we also aren't including heartworm and ringworm. The type that usually leads to vomiting and diarrhea are intestinal parasites, meaning they're living in your pup's gut. There are a bunch of different worms in dogs out there but the most common in dogs are hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and roundworm. Each can have slightly varied effects but likely all include problems with your pet's poop.
How do I know if my dog has worms?
Remember vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of a lot of issues in dogs, everything from eating something they shouldn't have to serious illnesses, like cancer. The best thing to do is call your vet. They will likely have you bring in a stool sample to test for parasites and possibly other conditions -- sometimes our animals catch a tummy bacteria from other dogs that's easy to treat with antibiotics.
Where do they catch worms?
Sadly, some puppies are born with them and that's when they're most fatal, too (particularly hookworms in dogs). In adulthood, your animal might get them from dirt, poop, a rodent, fleas, or another infected pet. It's best to test your pet before bringing them home or make sure the adoption agency or breeder has thoroughly ruled out worms in dog poop. Even then, you might include a fecal examination as part of a routine screening during their first checkup.
How do I go about identifying dog worms?
Some worms are easy to spot with the human eye, and if you notice something in Fido's poop, you should keep it for later and bring it to the vet. Otherwise, you won't always necessarily see the worms, but you'll notice the effects clearly. When you bring in a stool sample, the tests will determine the type of worm, which also can influence treatment.
How do I treat dog worms?
The best way to take care of worms is with preventatives. Check your heartworm or flea medicine to see if they already contain the right chemicals to keep them at bay. That way, the parasites never have a chance to take root inside your beastie at all. However, once the bugs set in, you might need an additional dewormer to get them out. Your vet will prescribe this, possibly over the course of many months.

We say this a lot, but the best defense is a good offense when it comes to worms in dogs. If you're already paying for preventatives, you can look around and see which ones kill the most worms. One note, cats and dogs sometimes do share parasites if they live in the same household. If you find that your pup has caught one of these, you'll need to look at your other pets, too.

Read more
Why does my dog have the zoomies? Your pet’s crazy behavior, explained
The zoomies: Why dogs get them and if you should try to stop them
A white dog running

You’re just chilling in your home or backyard with your dog. Suddenly, they book it and start running around in circles. You would think they were trying out for the Kentucky Derby — that’s how fast they’re attempting to move — except they’re not a horse. The problem? You can’t figure out what’s going on or why they’re displaying this behavior. It can feel jolting and alarming for a first-time pet parent or one whose previous dogs never acted this way.

Your dog may have a case of the zoomies. The word sounds silly. However, it’s a real-deal dog behavior. Why do the dog zoomies happen? Should you be concerned? Here’s what to know about this often-seen, little-talked-about doggie phenomenon.
What are the zoomies, and what causes them?
Zoomies is a term used to describe a natural dog behavior that occurs when dogs get a sudden burst of energy. To get that energy out, the dogs dash around in circles (or figure eights) as if they’re doing laps around a racetrack. It’s like the Tasmanian Devil mixed with Allyson Felix.

Read more
Why you shouldn’t feed your dogs trail mix
3 reasons why dogs can't eat trail mix or their common ingredients
A Yorkshire terrier licks their lips and looks into the camera

At first glance, trail mix might look like a healthy snack for everyone in your home. It has a little sugar, some healthy fats, and a small number of carbohydrates to keep you going throughout the day. Sounds great, right?
Although people can eat as much trail mix as they please, the same isn't true for our canine friends. There are many ingredients in this popular combo that aren't safe for dogs to eat. Let's go over a few of the reasons why as we answer some of the most common questions:

Can dogs eat raisins?
Why can't dogs eat trail mix?
Which nuts are safe for dogs to eat?

Read more