Hazardous Holiday Decorations: Plants & Greens




By Dr. Lucy Pinkston

As the holiday season gets underway, many people are buying plants and greens and putting up ornaments, lights, and other decorations. When decorating your house or yard, keep your pets in mind! Be aware of plants and cut greens to which your dog may have access. Puppies, adolescent dogs, and bored dogs who are left alone are at greatest risk, particularly if the item is new and intriguing. Gifts placed under a Christmas tree may not smell appealing to you, but the contents may be irresistable to your dog, who has a much keener sense of smell than you. Although most decorations are not hazardous, it is important to know the ones that are, since they may seem perfectly harmless to someone unaware of their danger. In this two-part segment, we discuss some of the common decorations that may be hazardous if chewed or eaten. This week, we review toxic plants and greens. Next week, we will cover hazardous non-living decorations.

1-Toxic Plants & Greens:
Name, Toxic Part Major Effect What to do?
Azalea: all parts Vomiting/diarrhea; excitement or depression Call vet, 24 hr emergency clinic and/or Poison Control Hotline
Amaryllis: bulbs Vomiting/collapse/excitement followed by depression; respiratory distress; can be fatal, esp. in very young or very old animals. Call vet, 24 hr emergency clinic and/or Poison Control Hotline
Japanese Yew:all parts, esp. berries Incoordination, collapse, diarrhea, slow heart rate--acute heart failure; may be fatal If dog is alert, induce vomiting AND call vet, 24 hr emergency clinic and/or Poison Control Hotline
English Ivy: stems, leaves Mild GI signs, if any (vomiting/diarrhea) Symptomatic treatment: consult vet
English Ivy: fruits, berries Much more severe GI signs: salivation, intense thirst, followed by vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Ingestion of large quantities could potentially be fatal. Call vet, 24 hr emergency clinic and/or Poison Control Hotline ASAP
Mistletoe: leaves & berries Mild signs, if any: increased pulse, respiration, and blood pressure (which is unlikely to be a problem except for very young or very old animals or those with heart or kidney disease) Consult vet for at-risk animals or in cases where large quantities have been ingested.
Poinsettias: stems, leaves, bracts (flowers) Mild GI signs, if any (vomiting/diarrhea) Symptomatic treatment: consult vet
Holly: stems, leaves, berries Mild GI signs, if any (vomiting/diarrhea) Symptomatic treatment: consult vet
Eucalyptus: stems, leaves Mild GI signs, if any (vomiting/diarrhea) Symptomatic treatment: consult vet

2-Non-Toxic or Minimal Toxicity:
Catnip
Boxwood
Boston Fern
Pine Branches - Minimal (except in cattle)
Spruce, Fir, Cedar branches - May cause vomiting/diarrhea from physical
effects of being in GI tract.


Further Information & Help:
Illinois/ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center:
The only animal poison control center in the country; handles thousands of cases of poisonings or suspected poisonings; has been operating for over 20 years; flat fee of $45 per case includes consultation with owner and/or vet and covers any follow-up phone calls

PHONE #'s:
1-888-426-4435 (toll free): charge is placed on a major credit card
1-900-680-0000: charge is placed on your phone bill.
Web site: www.napcc.aspca.org/

Further reading & reference:
A field Guide to Common Animal Poisons, Michael Murphy
published primarily for veterinary practitioners and veterinary students, by Iowa State University Press, 2121 South State Ave., Ames, Iowa 50014, Phone: 800-862-6657; Fax: 515-292-3348

Plant Poisoning in Small Companion Animals, Murray E. Fowler
published by Ralston Purina Company as a promotional/educational product for veterinarians. If out of print, I believe that there is a text book published by Dr. Fowler with a similar title.


How to induce vomiting:
Note that it is very important NOT to attempt to induce vomiting in an animal that is unconscious or barely conscious and then to induce it ONLY upon the direct advice of a veterinarian. Never induce vomiting if there is a chance that the animal has ingested caustic substances (e.g. cleansers) or physical injurious objects (e.g. bones).

For very young (less than 12 weeks) or very small dogs (less than 6 lb.), induce vomiting ONLY under the specific guidance of a veterinarian.

You will be administering hydrogen peroxide (3%, available over the counter at any drug store -- NOT hair bleaching strength) by mouth, using a dose syringe. For larger dogs, a turkey baster is convenient. Give a small amount of food first (approximately double in volume to the amount of peroxide that you use, so there is something to bring up along with the peroxide and stomach contents.

Administer the recommended dose (see below) and if the animal has not vomited in 15 minutes, repeat the dose of peroxide (not the food). If, in another 15 minutes, vomiting still has not occured, repeat the dose only one more time. Make sure you inform your veterinarian if vomiting does not occur.

1-Toxic Plants & Greens:
Dog's weight Amount of hydrogen peroxide
6 to 10 lbs. 1 tsp. (equiv to 5 cc or 5 ml)
11 to 20 lbs. 2 tsp. (equiv to 10 cc or 10 ml)
21 to 40 lbs. 1 Tbsp. (equiv to 3 tsp., 15 cc or 15 ml)
41 to 60 lbs. 1 1/2 Tbsp.
61-100 lbs.
61-100 lbs. 2 Tbsp.
over 100 lbs. 2 1/2 - 3 Tbsp.


copyright & disclaimer
Information and opinions stated are for educational purposes only, should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, and are not intended to replace advice and/or treatment provided by your veterinarian. Dr. Pinkston disclaim responsibility for the consequences of any action you may or may not take based on this information. Please consult your veterinarian for specific advice and treatment of your dog.